Don’t Hide — Mine Your Brand’s Flaws for Storytelling Gold

By neub9
4 Min Read

Your brand is flawed.

No matter who you are or what your company does, the character of your brand is flawed, and brands behave badly in major and minor ways. Even the most well-intentioned brand efforts go awry. For example, Elon Musk may have purposely acted out to devalue X’s brand value, and Bud Light had a failed marketing campaign in 2023. Even innovative startup OpenAI unintentionally created a brand issue after firing and re-hiring its CEO and founder Sam Altman.

Of course, mistakes can also happen in smaller, less catastrophic ways, like receiving an email from a company addressed to the wrong name or trying to sell you something you’ve already purchased from the brand.

As marketers, you hope to avoid these situations, but here’s the thing: Companies, organizations, and brands are made up of people. People make mistakes, and people do bad things. Every brand will falter at some point.

However, in all these situations lies a lesson for your role as a brand storyteller.

Understanding your brand’s flaws

Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once wrote, “We judge ourselves by our motives and others by their behavior.” As humans, you continue making this fundamental attribution error when perceiving your actions vs. others’ actions.

When things go wrong, you most likely blame the situation and remind yourself of your intentions. But your perception of other people’s — and other brands’ — behavior is different. You don’t know their intentions. As marketers, recognizing this tendency to judgmental responses provides an important lesson.

Identifying flaws’ potential in your brand stories

Historically, brand messaging architectures must be idealized, perfect, and unassailable — a passionate voice striking an ideal chord in an imperfect world. As a point of view includes “resistances,” one resistance materialized because a brand struggled to live up to that idealized infrastructure. But once acknowledged, it could be addressed. Recognizing the flaw led the brand to prepare a consistent, cohesive, and aligned response should they ever get called out on the flaw.

Embracing imperfection

As 2024 unfolds, businesses must lean hard into their human-centered brand story. Leaning into brand content inherently implies the need to get outside the comfort of “safe” brand messaging and take bigger leaps into thought leadership, engaging stories, and purpose-driven content.

Last year, point-of-view message architecture was shared. In the intervening months, work was done with clients to help them think through how much and where they align, not only on the brand messaging elements but all the things the brand believes. Recognizing the flaws in a brand’s point of view can help address them and prepare a consistent, cohesive response should the brand ever get called out on the flaw.

Ultimately, as a marketer, you are the perfect candidate to hold your brand’s flawed character, communicate your intentions to live up to your brand’s ideals, and accept that you never fully will. It’s your story. Tell it well.


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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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