The inclination to disguise ourselves is more potent today than ever. Most of us build fake fortresses through social media by posting an unbelievably rosy picture of our daily life for the world to see, instead of revealing who we really are and the struggles we actually go through. We leave out the rough edges so friends, coworkers, or prospective employers can judge us more favorably. Admit it. We all do it.
This phenomenon has created a new word, “frenemy,” which describes an online relationship that is friendly, but laced with resentment and jealousy. Why wouldn’t it? If all we see on Facebook are pictures and stories of others’ wildly intoxicating success, don’t you think it can raise feelings of inadequacy even in the strongest of egos? The fake lives people create yield serious consequences. They eventually make the faker feel bad, because the faker knows, deep down, they are lying, but they also make viewers feel bad, because viewers believe their lives aren’t nearly as “positive” as the ones they are experiencing online from “friends.” At the end of the day, the fear of sharing imperfection is disconcerting. It actually pushes people away. I find this sharply ironic, because it’s this phony world that’s meant to draw people in.
As Creative Director for an ad agency, it is my job to create relevant and positive brand images for my clients. But I believe the brand story needs to be true to the essence of the persona of the company. It can’t claim to be one thing and actually be another. In fact, it’s better off revealing its true self to the public and letting people in on its flaws, which isn’t always an easy task when trying to help win a brand war in the influence business. That’s where craftsmanship and experience come in. Don't get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that we focus on the negative traits of a brand, but merely show the real nature.
When budget airlines first entered the market, they admitted their flights were not luxurious. They are now power brands. Reality shows revealing fatally flawed individuals top the ratings and YouTube videos are popular because they show real life, in all its fallible glory.
I believe our rough edges are intrinsically beautiful and make us who we are. They’re real, genuine, authentic; much like unhewn rock. They don’t need to be smoothed, cut, and polished to shine. As a side note: It’s known in the gemology industry that unhewn stone is stronger than cut and polished stone. Also, interestingly, according to clergy, unhewn rocks, with all their imperfections and uneven edges, were required to build the first biblical altar. Nothing polished? Hmm. Coincidence? Or is someone trying to tell us something?
Listen — letting our guard down, being real, and talking truthfully are enablers. Being this way empowers others to expose their flaws, too. You see, when we take the risk of unveiling who we really are, it allows others to be real. A deeper connection is made. What’s more comfortable than being offered a conversation without judgment? Most importantly, removing its mask will go a long way to making a brand more likable. People seem to buy things from brands they like, don’t they?
This is why our rough edges, our imperfections, and our flaws are not things to hide, but to cherish and share. In effect, these are the things that make us stand out, differentiate, and even if it’s counter-intuitive, actually draw people closer.
So, even if social media is fomenting a world of fake lives, hidden agendas, and walls of deceit, make the most of an opportunity to turn imperfections into selling points and honesty into brand love.
Push past the fear of being you.
I think you’ll like what you see.
Steve Biegel develops transformative ideas through persuasive communications programs to help change consumer behavior, and has done so throughout his career. Steve is a battle-tested thinker with a broad perspective on the industry who can infuse others with creative energy while applying it to the details of the craft. Steve helped hatch some of the most effective campaigns for brands of all sizes and shapes. His ambidextrous approach to creative problem solving through digital, social, and traditional mediums is built on provocative ideation that surprises, informs, and rewards audiences. Steve is co-founder and Creative Director at Scarlet Heifer, a NYC digital communications boutique. Contact him here.
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