Most likely the concept of celebrating your company’s brand flaws strikes terror into your heart. After all, your competitors may be doing a pretty good job of persuading your target audience of the wonderfulness of their products.
Yet there are reasons to focus on your brand’s lack of perfection, as explained by Richard Shotton (@rshotton) in his recent article, “How Flaws Make a Brand More Appealing.” Mr. Shotton, by the way, is the author of The Choice Factory, a well-reviewed look at how our behavioral biases influence what we buy.
But I digress.
“Flaunt Your Flaws”
Mr. Shotton notes that one of the earliest examples of flaunting brand flaws was the Doyle Dane Bernbach Volkswagen ad campaign. If you’re old enough, you have truly fond memories of these little gems, which “gently mocked” the Beetle for its size, speed, and other attributes. Bill Bernbach, the advertising genius behind the campaign, successfully used the same approach with Avis.
Why does this approach work? Says Mr. Shotton, “Admitting weakness is a tangible demonstration of honesty and, therefore, makes other claims more believable.” Further, brands that admit their failings honestly are better able to persuade consumers that these failings are inconsequential.
“Make Sure This Tactic Suits Your Brand”
Mr. Shotton continues by cautioning that the “pratfall effect” works best when your brand is fundamentally sound and your competitors’ claims tend toward puffery.
Interestingly, men are more swayed by the pratfall effect than women who are, at bottom, supremely practical beings. “If your brand targets men then admitting weaknesses should be an approach you seriously consider.”
“More Than Just Ads”
You can talk about brand flaws in more than just ads. Consider the ubiquitous product review. One might think that perfect ratings are the goal, but something less than perfection, say in the 4.2 to 4.5 range, tends to prompt purchases. Perfect ratings lack credibility, “but negative reviews may have a positive impact because they help establish trust and authenticity.” Brand owners have been counseled to respond to less-than-favorable reviews with an apology for a bad experience and an offer to make things right. That is bound to have a favorable effect on credibility. (And I bet it also works in the world of social interactions.)
And now, a little clip that will bring tears to your eyes …