We craft a brand of virtue and hope through imagination and truth
We craft a brand through imagination and truth, advancing narratives of virtue and hope across our venture’s sphere of influence. We resist the urge to play to our customers’ desires, insecurity, or ego through marketing based on fear or status.
At the heart of every business are brand stories—origin narratives, customer pain points, fresh insights into a systemic issue, inspired pivots, new opportunities for impact. Over time, these stories evolve into an organizational narrative that propels vision, products, teams, and resources into reality.
These stories are important and good, for it is deeply satisfying to tap into meaningful human experience through our brand. Yet human beings don’t just tell stories, we also make myths—grand narratives that promise to unlock the truth about the world. And in today’s business environment, it often feels like it is not enough to have a good story—you need to craft a myth of epic proportions in order to stand out from the crowd and win the loyalty of a generation of consumers who are hungry for meaning and identity.
And so we are tempted to greatly exaggerate the origin, the current reality, and the ultimate scope of our work. We may retell our venture story in ways that amplify our obstacles, minimize our privilege, and position us as heroes when the reality may be less flattering and more mundane. Our marketing can feed our customers’ self-concept in similar ways.
We may find ourselves competing with companies that oversell both the actual capabilities and the social meaning of their work, and we are tempted to raise our stakes accordingly. Instead of casting an inspiring vision that we can actually deliver upon, we trumpet our work’s ability to deliver “the good life” for our customers, orienting ownership and experiences to the deepest human longings and implying a level of fulfillment that is beyond any product, service, or firm’s ability to deliver.
These myths regularly collapse in spectacular and tragic fashion—witness the firms that promised community but instead fed polarization, that proclaimed a new “we” but actually enriched a single “me,” that stood for happiness but whose leaders were plagued by addiction and self-destructiveness. And new brands with new myths are always taking their place. It is incredibly hard to believe that we could succeed by simply telling the truth, about ourselves, our customers, and our products, and that our imagination could be realistic and achievable rather than fantastical and idolatrous.
Instead, we long for the chance to tell good, true, and beautiful stories that will not ultimately betray us or those who trusted in them. We long to convey the possibility of real good here on earth, even as we acknowledge that every human myth grasps for a greater good that is only found in God.
1. We thoughtfully maximize our opportunity to rewrite a cultural narrative, particularly in categories where exploitative messages or products have been normalized and there is a need to expose harm, recapture truth, or shift expectations.
2. We root out brand hyperbole, refusing to establish false needs or implicit promises that our products or services claim to address or fulfill. Our brand promise—what we suggest our venture and offerings can reliably deliver to customers and partners over time—is a true reflection of what we are designing and operating the business to deliver on its best day.
3. We base our brand narrative on an eternal understanding of identity and worth that is not conferred through consumption, group affiliation, or self-expression, but through inherent human dignity, relationships, and virtue. We address our current and potential customers as whole people bearing great responsibilities, struggles, and capacities, who long for deep meaning and close community that businesses cannot fully provide.
4. We ensure that our brand story runs on contentment over materialism; trust over suspicion; interdependence over individualism; hope over wishful thinking; wisdom over fear; and freedom over compulsion.
5. We carefully consider whose voices, faces, stories, and experiences will represent our brand. Rather than relying on comfortable stereotypes or making inauthentic displays of diversity, we foreground people who represent our brand’s community at its best and fullest.
6. We are truthful and gracious with all constituencies in our communications—customers, board, investors, partners, team, the public, and even competitors. We openly acknowledge failure, naming what we have learned without spreading blame; and we generously celebrate others rather than elevating ourselves at their expense.
THE GOOD NEWS
This is the area of the business in which we have the greatest opportunity to demonstrate that one of our ultimate “products” is trust. In that light, our branding and marketing teams will discover that finding creative ways to tell the truth requires just as much skill and craft, and is far more satisfying, than finding creative ways to shade the truth. Indeed, our first step in redemptive branding is often to attend to the simple satisfactions delivered by our product or service. To the extent that we can creatively help people revel in what our offering actually does, we can resist the temptation to hook our brand up to inflated promises of what it can never really do.
As trust and value grows in the enterprise alongside financial sustainability, our company’s brand will become an authentic platform for contribution to a positive narrative about how the world ought to be. Advertising budgets, PR, and other impressions of our work will become opportunities to share redemptive stories and vision, and encourage customers to share in the future that the company seeks to build.
If “whoever tells the best story wins,” then as people committed to what we believe is a truer and better story than any other, we can be confident in our brand narrative—even in the places where it is modest. To the extent it advances a mission aligned with the heart of God, and honors humanity as reflective of his image, it will bear the imprint of the true Good News—and we can know we are serving our neighbor by telling our story to the world.