It's Good for Businesses to Admit Their Branding Mistakes | Podcast 39

It's Good for Businesses to Admit Their Branding Mistakes | Podcast 39
Interview by Nikola Djuric
Published: March 22, 2024

The 39th episode of the DesignRush Podcast is all about building a trusted brand.

Contrary to the belief many big brands share, talking about branding mistakes is one of the best ways to connect with your target audience.

Our editor Vianca Meyer interviews Zach Nunn, the CEO of an experience management (XM) startup that prioritizes workplace fairness, to learn more about this.

Tune in to the show to learn:

  • Why you should talk about branding mistakes to connect with your audience
  • How to create and amplify your brand’s reach through storytelling
  • What is brand measuring and how you can do it too using the data-first approach

Who Is Zach Nunn?

Zach is an HR specialist and corporate CEO who relentlessly pursues liberation, equity, and workplace justice for business professionals. He's done this through Living Corporate, an experience management (XM) startup that has prioritized workplace fairness for the past six years by collaborating with companies such as Pfizer, Visa, and Amazon.

There was that poignant moment in corporate history that drew lessons from the incident involving H&M's controversial "monkey" hoodie design in January 2018.

Effective brand storytelling leans into the reality of whatever is happening with an organization instead of trying to erase it.

Here's what Zach told H&M's head of DEI at the time:

"I wouldn't be doing you good if we skipped talking about this. Let's talk about that hoodie with the monkeys on it. What was that about, and what did you learn from that? How can you show up better in the future?"

According to Zach, "It's the leaning into it and not acting like nothing happened. So many times people try to treat brand storytelling like a magical sound that you rub over something to erase it"

Instead, the strategy should involve how the brand plans to double down on that by sharing what it has learned, and what it's going to do better. 

"That part is where you build trust. It's the only, it's the ownership of just mistakes and taking lessons learned," he concludes.

It Shouldn't Be Hard to Say "I'm Wrong" and Apologize

Zach also touched on a broader societal reluctance to admit wrongs and apologize.

"People struggle to apologize," he explains.

"People struggle to say: Hey, I was wrong, that thing we did, that was dumb and we shouldn't have done it. Here's what we'll do moving forward – the policies we will enact. Here are the donations we'll make, the nonprofit we'll create, and the new talent we'll bring in."

He pointed out that this hesitancy to embrace fallibility hinders personal growth and impedes building genuine connections with both your employees and your target audience.

Owning up to mistakes can pave the way for stronger, more authentic brand relationships, Zach argues, and foster a culture of accountability and transparency.

"People wake up with honest awareness they're fallible. It's okay to be fallible too. To own the fallibility, you can create a deeper sense of connection with your employees and your market."

Storytelling Is the Best Way to Engage Your Consumers

Storytelling can amplify product value and mold consumer preferences when woven effectively into product narratives that resonate with consumers on a personal level.

This is achieved using humor and relatable experiences.

"What often happens is brands will try to do some product storytelling, but the stories will be too generic. They will put the pressure on the market to transpose the story and fit it back to their use case, which is wrong," Zach says.

Learn How to Effectively Add Humor to Your Site

"People aren't paying attention."

"Make it easy for your market so that you can get conversions by making sure that you're telling stories that they don't have to do too much transposing for to fit their potential use case."

Zach emphasized the necessity of intimately knowing and respecting the target personas for any given product. He illustrates this by suggesting brands meticulously identify and understand the diverse demographics they aim to reach.

Your target audience includes varying:

  1. Age groups
  2. Ethnic backgrounds
  3. Geographical locations

By extracting and highlighting authentic stories from representatives of each demographic segment, every brand can showcase how its product fits into various real-life scenarios, making the value proposition palpable.

Zach advocates for creating direct, specific, and engaging stories that clearly illustrate the product's impact, facilitating the consumer's ability to see the product's relevance in their own life without the need for mental gymnastics.

Learn What Is Purpose-Driven Branding

Effective storytelling isn't just about sharing a product's features or benefits in isolation but about situating these within compelling, human-centered narratives that speak directly to the hearts and minds of potential customers.

This storytelling approach fosters the deepest connections and drives meaningful engagement.

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