Branding with Authentic Poetic Faith

Fri, Oct 15, 2010

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Branding with Authentic Poetic Faith

What does Samuel Taylor Coleridge have to do with advertising and branding?  Well, in 1817 he wrote a phrase that’s endured for 190 years.

A good brand constitutes “poetic faith”. They tell a “semblance of the truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief”.  The critical word here being: “willing“.

“In this idea originated the plan of the ‘Lyrical Ballads’; in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.” – Coleridge from Biographia literaria

Have you ever fallen victim to a good lie?  A liar’s skill is one that weaves fantasy into truth in such a way that no difference can be found.  They tell us what we want to hear with evidence that proves a true but ancillary element in the story. We hear it in politics all the time, often followed by “I misspoke”. We suspend our disbelief and buy the story. Call it our unwilling suspension of disbelief.

Marketers spend small fortunes asking targets what they want to hear. They ask through focus groups, questionnaires, interviews, or whatever, assembling quantitative, qualitative and anecdotal evidence because they want to seem authentic; do you believe this story? Do you want to be the Marlboro Man?

Brands are encountering authenticity when disbelief isn’t willingly suspended. Authenticity happens when we boast of ducking sniper fire that never existed and get busted.

Authenticity is the wizard behind the curtain. Good is done only after the big reveal. Discover a good authentic message after faux sniper fire and all is forgiven; human frailty is grounding because we all understand it. The good stuff comes when we  make up for frailties with actions that prove our authenticity.

OK, so there was no sniper fire. Please take a look at who I really am, I have good qualities, and I’ll prove it to you. I’m sorry for the deception – I was a fool.

Authenticity is the old GAP logo or the taste of Classic Coke. The good news: both companies learned that they own an authentic brand.  The bad news: you can’t attempted to close the curtain after your family spent holidays with the wizard; it is silly to suspend disbelief when so few are willing.

The bottom line is that we must be willing to suspend our disbelief about authenticity that we experience. Halloween is authentic; we know its fantasy. On the other hand,  the brand “John McCain”,  is not. His brand is a mess. Our experience needs to match the story, or we must know the story is fantasy and share that knowledge with the story teller with a wink and/or nod.

Reality meets fantasy on a global scale pretty damn fast.  The modern communication channels hammer that point daily.  Society no longer tolerates manipulation the way it once did.  Brands start with authenticity; all else is fluff at best.  At worse it’s unwilling suspension of disbelief.  If you don’t know your brand’s authenticity you’ll never control in and probably won’t sell it.

advertising, Authenticity, Branding

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