Posts Tagged ‘Identity’

To Thine Own Self be True…

April 22, 2012

This line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been interpreted in numerous ways since it was written. I choose to think it refers Imageto maintaining integrity to your own core identity, and the importance of that focus.

Organizations (and people for that matter) are often defined by their reputations. In a technology state where a lie travels around the world before the truth even gets out of bed, this can be a disturbing reality. Reputations and brands that may have taken decades to build can be trashed in a matter of hours (or at least days…).

Reputations may not actually reflect the true underlying persona of an organization or brand. One of the most violent negative reactions in social media comes when an organization or brand is seen to have acted out of character. Often these negativity reactions have more to do with the fact that the organizations image is does not actually fully match with its true self than that they actually behaved in an incongruent manner.  Whether this incorrect perception was innocently developed or fostered by the owner, the disparity is potentially fuel for a firestorm when exposed to the light of day.

While many of these viral occurrences are often out of proportion to reality, the fact that they can happen (even when the organization/brand has no intent to deceive) argues for maintaining and communicating an identity consistent with internal integrity.

With full, immediate event awareness that is available in our tapped in world, it is impossible for a public entity to maintain a false façade for any extended length of time; there is just too much exposure, and from too many potential directions. In a market where customers are looking for a relationship (granted the intensity of this relationship varies by product and organization), that relationship must be built on a sustainable reality, or it will ultimately will fail.

Issues often arise when a company makes a lackluster effort to find and promote its true core values and beliefs, because it is easier to stipulate that the rate of change dictates that they may need to be someone else tomorrow. This is lazy thinking: While what exactly you do, and how you go-to-market may be different tomorrow (and impacted by the tides of change and technology), the core of who you are should not change.

Apple has always been the epitome of this (and those who know me are aware that I am not Apple’s biggest fan): Apple was going to be Apple, no matter what came. The irony here was that Apple was/is so sure of their direction and identity, that they were actually able to drive the change in the market to reflect that identity. IBM, another technology brand, drove to reinvent the entire company when their market positioning no longer fit their world view.

Other iconic brands, for example Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and American Express, have evolved, but basically thrived by strongly communicating an unwavering value proposition that was clearly understood by their customers.

These long-term brands show that a brand can still retain lasting value in a digital world, but a key to doing so is to know yourself, and be true to that knowledge.