Members of congress and car salespeople…these are the only professions less trusted than marketers. In 2018, we set out to change this perception and accidentally found that “one weird trick” everyone talks about.
Here’s the trick: Authenticity.
This is the reason why MarkUp is now Van Bram. Aside from the obvious negative connotations around the word “markup” (inflated prices, etc.) the name and branding does not reflect what we have become: a specialized marketing agency at the nexus of art and science, creativity and performance.
The name Van Bram is personal — a truncated version of my grandfather’s name, Van Bramblett, and also our fictional family surname when we joke about being Dutch (we’re not). If you look closely, you can find every letter in our new name hidden within the logo. This new brand and design is a sharper more authentic reflection of our company.
It turns out authentic messaging and marketing (aka not being a fraud) is a key ingredient for success. Pretending your business is something different or grander than it is will end in failure.
If your app is in Beta, let people know. If your company is a startup, don’t try to look like a large enterprise. If you sell enterprise software, stop trying to be trendy on social media. And if you’re wary of marketing for fear of sounding like the brands you hate, there’s another way.
Recently, I was giving a friend some advice about remarketing ads. He was hesitant to try it because his only experience of remarketing was invasive and annoying — exactly the kind of message that could hurt his brand. “So don’t do it that way,” I said. “Be yourself,” because authenticity is the only long-term success formula.
Am I suggesting that brand authenticity is strongly correlated with success? No, not suggesting, I’m telling you it’s true. Just look at the newest Bud Light commercials set in medieval England. By mocking sophisticated beer pallets (malty, full-bodied, autumnal flavors for example), Anheuser-Busch basically admits that nobody drinks Bud Light for its “smooth” and “refreshing” taste. The new slogan, “for the many, not the few” is really saying “our beer isn’t the best but only a few snobs care about that anyway.” More importantly, it says Bud Light knows what they are and they’re okay being authentic about it. That was the foundation for every bit of creative genius that accompanied this marketing campaign and it is the reason for its huge success.
Here’s the problem though (maybe you already see it). Identity comes before authenticity. It’s true for people and it’s true for brands — and they’re not mutually exclusive. The individual values and personality of a company’s leaders will be reflected by the brand, even in very large companies. In other words, brand identity starts with you.
I wish I understood and applied this insight a long time ago. Instead, I wasted years and lots of money trying to wake off the success formula of other people. I didn’t know my own “brand identity” and I was too afraid to stop and find it. But I learned, among other things, that fear of failure is self-fulfilling, and so is pretending. That why I’m also taking this opportunity to clarify our personality and values:
1) Fearless authenticity: This one is pretty obvious right? Without belaboring what has already been written, authenticity requires risk and sometimes there’s a cost. We believe it’s worth the cost and the return is always bigger.
2) Respectful irreverence: Great creative work requires a certain testing of boundaries and a lack of veneration for the things people generally take seriously. It also means not taking yourself too seriously. Irreverence with respect means challenging but not destroying.
3) Persistent optimism: It has become fashionable for companies to project a cynical or jaded brand personality in an effort to be interesting. That’s not us. We offer a few marketing services that really work and we’re excited to share them with you.
4) Devotion to excellence: We try to do everything really well. That’s why we only offer services we’re really good at: branding, lead generation and video. If you work with Van Bram you will be amazed by our customer service, speed, attention to detail and creativity.
TJ Bramblett — Founder, Van Bram
Bonus: Here are a couple very Tweetable nuggets to take with you.
1) Be who you are with integrity even if it seems small and eventually you’ll be doing something big.
2) You can’t copy a person’s success without experiencing the hurdles and failures that got them there.