Aaron Keller, Principal at Capsule

Many aspire to improve our individual place in the world. Aspiration is good.

There is nothing wrong with aspiring to something more than you currently are. But, when it comes to a strong brand, being honest with yourself is more important than stretching to a place you may or may not achieve.

This behavior [in our view] comes from a long history of advertising telling marketing to "put a stick out there" or blurring the line between "puffery" and the truth then hoping the brand will live up to the promise. This behavior has deteriorated the trust consumers have around brands and it leaves a legacy our generation has to consider.

Consumers are less likely to trust, therefore less likely to be loyal.

We need to be honest with our brand messaging and see the implied and explicit promises we make.

For years we have been speaking on this subject and using a number of examples of bad behavior. The most relevant and easy to get is the header photo on this post. Put yourself on a road trip stopping at a gas station to fill up and grab a cup of coffee. The styrofoam cup you walk out with says "Premium" when we all know gas station coffee can’t be premium, as most would define the word. Certainly, someone could make the rationalization, it may be a comparable cup of coffee to any Starbucks or Caribou, but really?

This explicit promise is broken before the coffee is even consumed.

Honestly, it was a solid cup of coffee. And, if it said "The best cup of coffee you’ll find just off the road to Iowa," some may be more apt to enjoy and believe the message. Instead saying "premium" it further served up the distrust we have with brands. This plague has to be addressed, it devalues the individual brands and unfortunately, the entire branded world.

We need more people to demand truth from the brands in our lives. And in meetings where "premium" on the cup is discussed we need more people to ask a simple question in 2012.


Is your brand stretching the truth? Is your brand living up to implied and explicit promises?