One of the things I pay attention to with clients is whether the way they communicate and present themselves is consistent with their brand.
The best way I can describe it is to tell you a quick story about my own experience of being off-brand.
The very first video I put up on YouTube was a little over 7 years ago, September 10, 2009, to be exact. (Take a look. Even though it pains me, I leave it up there on purpose!) I introduced myself as the “Media Trainer to the Stars,” which was as true then as it is now. What I didn’t realize, however, was how cognitively dissonant my surroundings were with that statement. My bookshelves were sagging, the books were all askew, the table behind me was a mess, the delivery sounded stilted, I wasn’t looking into the camera lens, and more. After I recorded it, I took a deep breath and posted it. Pretty quickly, I received some very pointed feedback and criticism. Although it was difficult to hear, they were right – what I was saying didn’t match what I surrounded myself with. Because of that, people had a hard time believing I was who I said I was. The video was totally off-brand.
The cardinal rule of communication was brought home to me that day: If the way you and/or your surroundings look and sound contradicts what you say, people will believe what they see, and not what you say.
I think that’s what’s happening right now in the United States.
We say we are an open, welcoming country, but we institute arbitrary and ill-thought-out bans on immigrants.
We pride ourselves on our tolerance, but we blame and marginalize minorities.
We claim to be the greatest democracy in the world, but the voices of millions have been drowned out by a handful of moneyed interests.
We expect our presidents to behave with elegance, dignity, and empathy, but we elect a boorish, classless man to office.
The “noise” created by these inconsistencies is making us question who we really are, what we stand for. It’s classically off brand.
I don’t care whom you voted for. There is plenty of blame to go around for our current state. It has been a long time in the making. Every institution from the parties to our leaders to the press has failed us. And we, the voters, have also failed by remaining willfully ignorant of the way our government functions and the power we actually have to remind our representatives that we are the ones who pay their salaries.
Now, all brands have to go through the occasional re-brand so it could be the American brand is evolving into something else. That will take time to develop.
But for now, the way we think and talk about ourselves and the country is at sharp odds with the way we behave. And just like in business, if what we say about America is contradicted by how we act in America, it’s the behavior that will be believed.