How Integrity Is Your Brand’s Greatest Weapon

You don’t have to be super-human. Just a human.

Kira Leigh
May 2 · 7 min read

In the court of public outrage, on the universal stage of social media, brands forget that The Internet Never Forgets.

Integrity and authenticity win the day for brand adoption, but seemingly that’s also something brands have forgotten about.

Yup. Despite all the incessant 5 hour long meetings with overpaid “Thought Leader” Consultants bleating on these common-sense concepts, brands just can’t seem to adapt.

JetBlue Airway’s latest 1984-esque surveillance state facial recognition opt-in fiasco is just the latest flavor of pervasively bad — and disturbing — brand behaviors.

Only 36% of shoppers actually trust big businesses to do what’s right. Crazy, huh?

There’s no escaping the transparency the internet affords; consumers got the ‘receipts’, fam, and we’re ‘over it’ already.

The aesthetics of relevancy just don’t cut it anymore, sorry not sorry.

So what’s a brand to do?

First of all, I gotta ask: are you a faker?

Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

Has your business ever offered to give something valuable without dropping consumers into an annoying-as-frell email funnel?

If you treat your consumers like anything less than your absolutely invaluable community, your brand is just not going to survive this brave new world of call-out culture and cancel culture.

So, let me ask you again: are you a faker?

And do you want to build a brand that matters?

Here’s what you have to do to get your brand beyond the fakeness:

Tweet about how much you love anime, just like Elon Musk, I promise it’s going to totally hel —

I’m kidding, really. Well, not quite.

A 2013 study concocted by the Boston Consulting Group found that customers identified authenticity as one of the penultimate reasons for engaging with a brand.

(No normie is going to tweet about cat girls in their spare time, Elon’s UwU love is for realz.)

But what does authenticity even mean, when brands are scrambling to capitalize on it?

I’m going to show you, using brands that are open, honest, and most importantly: human.

Maybe if you see brand integrity in action, you’ll find a way back to normal human interactions.

‘Business as usual’ just doesn’t fly anymore.

In order to have an authentic brand, you need to have integrity and be transparent.

And not just say you do, for the optics.

Screenshot snagged from Instapage.

Plenty of brands keep things pretty close to the chest, but not Buffer.

Anything you want to know about how they spend their money is literally on display, front and center.

Hiring practices? They show the receipts. Salary deetz? They show the receipts.

Of course Buffer knows what’s up: they are literally in the business of social media marketing. Buffer has to know what’s righteous.

Buffer has managed to be vulnerable in a way that many businesses seemingly can’t (or won’t) be.

In 2018, Buffer wrote an article about the wage gap for Equal Pay Day.

They recognized a clear issue in their organization, and they wrote about it.

I highlighted this section, and asked a very human, albeit simple, question.

And what did Buffer do?

Did they put on their brand armor and give a non-answer like almost every other brand does?

No, Buffer did the vulnerable thing and responded with integrity.

This shows me that Buffer is open to evolving, and open to criticism.

If your brand is asked a pointed question: respond! Give a human answer. Actually make the effort to reach your consumers.

Buffer has a lifelong fan in me, and I bet countless other people, just by being a transparent brand worth fighting for.

If you want to be a brand that survives the test of time, have a human-first approach to customer service.

Without customers, you don’t have a business, so how can you treat them like anything less than gold?

And.co is quite literally Customer Service Royalty. I’ve sat here and had full-blown conversations with their support team about Star Trek.

They absolutely do not need to, ever, entertain my wild need to talk about science fiction stuff.

But they do. Why? Because they love their consumers.

They love the people who use their product, because they know their community is what makes their brand actually ‘work’.

And.co legit sends ‘random acts of kindness’ via snail mail. That’s mind-blowing.

And.co consistently goes above and beyond, and like Buffer, is incredibly transparent.

This shows Integrity. This shows they listen.

I’m not saying you need to send customers gift baskets.

I’m saying you actually have to make an effort.

Because without customers, you just don’t have a business.

Vulnerability is also your brand’s greatest weapon.

When you mess up, understand why you’re being called out, apologize for real, and fix it.

Just like a functional adult human being, which if I’m honest, most adults can’t actually do any of the above.

ConvertKit wanted to change their name to ‘Seva’ but didn’t realize the new brand name was pretty culturally insensitive.

Did they just go along with it, barrel ahead, because reasons?

No, they apologized. Novel concept, I know.

Even if their copyeditors probably tweaked things a bit (I always assume they do), this apology shows ConvertKit actually listened.

Within a few days, we started to hear from many of you who had genuine concerns about the name and its deep connection to religion and culture for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and more.

We thought we understood, but it became very clear that we didn’t.

Our response was to listen.

We asked ourselves if we knew then what we know now, would we still have chosen Seva as our name?

The answer is no.

ConvertKit called customers, read from conversations on Medium and Facebook, and realized they done goofed.

They didn’t move forward with the brand name change, because it would’ve been a crap play on their part.

ConvertKit proved their brand has integrity.

Your brand needs to admit when something ends up being a bad move, and make efforts to fix it.

Consumers are not stupid, and if you don’t want to risk trial by Twitter, and want to actually behave like a group of salient homo-sapiens, you must choose the vulnerable path.

By being the change you wish to see in the world, your brand will make it through the current cloyingly boring dystopia.

Integrity Is Your Brand’s Greatest Weapon

You don’t have to be super-human. Just a human.

Now, I don’t work with any of these brands, but I am more than happy to promote them at every given opportunity.

Why?

Because these brands have integrity.

Consumers are more keyed-in and more technologically savvy than ever before. Call-out culture is real, and The Internet Never Forgets.

So are you really willing to risk acting like an insensitive, tone-deaf, faceless business entity in this current social climate? Sounds nuts to me.

More than that, your brand has to take a human-first approach, because without consumers, you just don’t have a business.

So I’m going to ask you one more time: are you a faker?

Photo by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash

Does your brand have actual integrity, or is it all just lip service?

If you’re feeling a little guilty right now, or a little angry, you need to do some self reflection, pronto.

But if you feel your brand really does have integrity, hit me up.

I’d love to champion more brands that treat their consumers like the invaluable community they are, because lord knows they’re rare enough that I felt the need to shine a spotlight on cool bro brands.

You got this, my dudes.

Just be a real human being, and maybe, just maybe, people will think you’re a real hero worth championing, too.


Kira Leigh is a snarky marketing nerd, writer, and artist. See her work here and send her a message if you want to work together with her amazeballs team.

Special thanks to Renato P. dos Santos for his continued support.

THERE IS NO DESIGN

Writings by the snarkiest of agencies

Kira Leigh

Written by

Content Marketer / Artist / Writer / Gamer - www.thereisno.design

THERE IS NO DESIGN

Writings by the snarkiest of agencies