Why Honesty Is Key to Accelerating the Power and Value of Your Brand

Are you calling yourself out for what you are?


Kat Cole, North America COO and president at FOCUS Brands, explains why leaders and brands should be upfront about who they are.

“It's liberating to be honest about who you are and what you are,” says Kat. “Make choices that are conscious, so when it comes time for you to be honest, you're really proud of what you have to say.”

Watch the video to learn more from Kat about why it’s so incredibly important for brands to be honest about what they are and transparent when problems arise.

I get asked a lot, "How do you run such an indulgent brand?" At the time, I ran Cinnabon and ran it for four years, and we did a great job growing that business and building a brand. Incredibly proud of the team and what we accomplished. But we did so at a time where the focus is on health and gluten-free, and organic. And so, people often ask, "How did you guys do that and why is Cinnabon able to be successful despite those trends?" And so, that's the question. And the answer is, first and foremost, because we're honest about who we are and what we are. We call ourselves an "indulgence." Because we're an indulgence. We're made of fat and real sugar, and lots of dough, and it's a pastry the size of your face. It's enormous, and it's over the top, and it's amazing.

And what we don't say is, "Eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner." We zoom in on the ooey gooeyness of the product. We let people know it's an indulgence. And when you do that, one, what is there left to say? We're calling ourselves out for what we are. Two, it gives us the permission to then go deeper down that brand authenticity. So we can talk about dripping frosting, and ooey, gooey dough, and delicious cinnamon filling. And we're not doing so at the same time we're telling people anything close to "We're healthy, you should eat it all the time." We're saying, "It is full of delicious stuff. And it may not be good for your butt, but it is great for your soul."

And so, when you need to have a little treat, we hope you think of something that's so delicious, that it's worth that trade-off and that investment in calories, and sugar, and fat, and all that good stuff. It just gives you permission. It's liberating to be honest about who you are and what you are. And anything that relates to branding. So the marketing and advertising, product choices, how you price and package your product, ingredient labeling, sourcing; everything that comes along with the choice that affects the way your brand is perceived.

Make choices that are conscious. So when it comes time for you to be honest, you're really proud of what you have to say. And if you find something in your brand, that when you go to be honest about it and authentic, you don't feel really proud or you don't feel it resonates with the consumer, have the courage to call that out and tweak it or change it. If there's an ingredient you're not super proud of, say, "Hey, this is something we're working on." If it's a version of your product that's not resonating because of pricing or availability, say, "Hey, this is what we're working on."

The consumer, generally, the public—social media, communities online, your fans—are incredibly forgiving if you beat them to the punch by pointing out your own flaws and your own opportunities. It's a little tough to be on the back foot. Not impossible. The same rules apply; be honest, agree or disagree, and share a little bit of your thinking around it so they see the depth. Not just the reaction to a groundswell or questions.

But take a hard look at your brand and what it stands for. And don't wait for the consumer to call it out. Have the courage to question what your brand stands for. Today versus two years ago, in two years versus now. It means something different as time goes on, and your products or your services may or may not currently align with what you want your brand to stand for.

So doing that gut check and being willing to be honest publicly about what you are or what you want to be, and getting the inputs from a broad variety of consumers and stakeholders is a really good idea to accelerate the power and the value of your brand.

Kat Cole

Kat Cole’s twitter handle reads “Connected-Creative-Conscious-Community building Capitalist, Biz Advisor, MBA, Coffee-loving Chronic Learner” – this not only describes her as a person, it describes the philosophies she applies to busi...

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