Brand Authenticity

What happens if your brand story and character isn’t real… like haunted houses.

In 1974, Ronald DeFeo killed his entire family inside their home in Amityville.

He claimed he was possessed by Satan and heard voices plotting against him.

A year later, George Lutz moved into the house with his family.

They heard voices, saw windows and doors opening and closing on their own and discovered cold spots throughout the house.

They saw hooded figures, experienced personality changes… the telephone service was even affected!

The Amityville house received attention from across the world and was considered the most haunted house in America.

But it wasn’t.

Stories of ghosts and haunted houses fascinate me. They fascinate me because I don’t know enough about them. And we generally fear what we don’t fully understand.

But they’re also intriguing which makes them entertaining so they make headlines. Making them a marketer’s dream.

Which is why the DeFeo possession caught on.

In the case of the Amityville Horror, however, it was all a lie.

The Lutz family had conspired with DeFeo’s legal team and manufactured a hoax so Ronald DeFeo could be trialled again.

There was no problem with their telephone service.

He didn’t get to trial again though because of the inconsistencies in his story. It wasn’t authentic nor was it logical.

But the basis of the Amityville story has now gone on to sell millions of books and movies worldwide.

The rumours and spectacular version of events caught the imagination. It spread.

It’s these types of stories we must be careful about, even though, as marketing people, we may use them to differentiate our brand stories from those of our competitors.

Customers make their purchasing decisions based on the brand stories we tell.

A brand that is truthful with its messaging and positioning will far outlast those that make a one-off headline.

It won’t need to sell its products; the products will sell themselves.

As this product keeps delivering the brand will grow. Because honesty goes a million miles – a characteristic that people look for when parting with time and money.

Present your product in a way that’s original and natural. Be cautious with your approach and strive for authenticity.

Create a culture around your brand and people that help fulfil the needs and wants of our customers in a way that’s real. One that can deliver the promises you make. Like Adidas, Amazon, Microsoft, BMW and Disney.

This is a common problem, however – we’re all guilty of it. What we believe about ourselves sometimes isn’t true. We see ourselves how we want to see ourselves.

We make things up. We say we’re better than what we are and we can do more than we can. Just like we can’t help pretending our products and services do things they don’t.

But all it needs is one small inaccuracy or mismatch with the story and reality.

People will then ask questions and the entire brand will come under scrutiny.

Like the Amityville possession, a fictional ghost story, it got found out.

Old houses usually have damp spots, with structural conditions that make creaking sounds and have rats living in the walls – which incidentally, can chew through telephone cables.

As a child, Ronald DeFeo had a troubled relationship with his father. He was also a persistent drug taker and had an antisocial personality disorder.

We know houses aren’t really haunted – people give them this character. And they only work because of the intrigue created.

Don’t give your brand a character as it’ll never work the same way.

Make it last.

Let the product determine the character and its story.

Because that’s what a brand really is.

And it’s also how to be authentic as a brand. Without having to say the brand is authentic.

That is, of course, unless the product is a haunted house.

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13 thoughts on “Brand Authenticity

  1. The house we lived in up in Pennsylvania did have something unusual. We bought it with plans to renovate, but I don’t think it wanted to be changed. There were 3 floors. The staircase between the 2nd and 3rd floor had a door at the bottom and top which were normally closed since we were not using the 3rd floor. Sometime during the night you could hear light footsteps like those that belonged to a young woman going up and down the staircase. I don’t remember how long it lasted or how often it happened, but it was enough to scare my kids. I am a born-again Christian and don’t believe in ghosts. I prayed for our safety and asked the Lord to help. The footsteps stopped. However, the people that bought the house from us heard them.

  2. I think it’s rash to rule out the possibility of something we could call “haunting”.

    On another point, as a political activist rather than a business sales or PR person, I think this message is highly applicable. Political movements – or campaigning voluntary organisations – can survive a fall in support from failing to persuade waverers, though long-term they need to succeed in this. What is deeply and maybe permanently wounding is presenting the movement as being about something and then acting to the contrary. This undermines core support and demotivates the activists.

  3. Great read!! I am fascinated by haunted locations as well. One of my homes was haunted. Some strange things were seen. A friend and I toured Waverly Sanatorium last year in Louisville KY. I may do a blog about it sometime. It was interesting and I will go back.

    1. Thanks, Laura. I’m a sucker for it all even though I can’t say I’m a believer. Not yet at least…

      If you do write a blog about your experience please post it here and I will check it out!

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