At Bulldog we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of defining your purpose, in both life and business. We ask people and brands alike, “What’s your purpose?” We believe it is fundamental to the long-term success of a brand to understand what it’s here for and what it intendeds to achieve in the world. And while this is often one of the hardest questions to answer, it’s not the answer but the follow-through that holds the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards.
How you act in the world is subject to total transparency
As this trainwreck of an election cycle crashes and burns, my disgust and disdain hasn’t been fueled by the policies or purpose of the candidates, but rather by how they have behaved. We haven’t experienced a series of intelligent debates around strategies that would put our country on a progressive, peaceful and prosperous path forward. Instead, we’ve been subjected to a schoolyard spectacle of the insults, lies, excuses and peccadillos of each.
It’s been the painful destruction of the character of each candidate that has fueled the media circus in which we’ve been saturated. We’ve witnessed that the actions, both past and present, of these candidate brands are not Presidential. How they’ve acted in the past is the only indicator we have of how they might act in the future, and that is cause for alarm. But this example of such profound dearth of character in the most prominent leadership role in our nation should not be needed to underscore the importance of how we behave in the world. Because no matter who we are talking about, character matters.
Given the widespread access to information through both social media and 24/7 news circuits, whether we like it or not our character is on display for the world to witness. We are, as we should be, held accountable for our words and actions because they are available for everyone to see. And with the permanence of the internet, we can never erase or deny when we fall short. We can either fear the reality of transparency or use it as an opportunity to tell our audience who we are and show them what we stand for. It’s easier than ever for both individuals and brands to be held accountable for a lack of character, but also to be revered for a wealth of it.
You have character and everyone can be the judge
Let’s take a deeper look at character. What is it really? It’s defined as a distinct set of mental and moral qualities; it’s shaped by your beliefs and reflected in your actions. Character, and therefore principles, play a key role in guiding your brand so that you can live out your purpose with consistency.
To be authentic, build from the truth
Like a confident person, a strong and vibrant brand knows who it is and so does everyone it comes into contact with. It’s built on truth and on a clear and compelling purpose that engages and inspires employees and connects in meaningful ways with consumers. It’s built on a solid foundation that informs everything it does, and how a brand acts shows others what it values.
Act with integrity, even when the mic is off
A brand with depth must have character. This means that it must have clear principles that serve to guide actions of integrity. Integrity means that you do what you promise, you live by your word, and you do the right thing even, and especially, when no one is looking. A brand might have an incredibly clear purpose laid out, but if it has failed to deliver on it and failed to show integrity, it will lose credibility and trust. In fact, if a brand lacks the character, the principles and the integrity to uphold its purpose, it may as well claim no purpose at all.
Consistency is the key to building trust
Let’s be clear, having a solid character is challenging. It’s doing what’s right rather than what’s easy. Character is tested when the going gets tough and when difficult situations arise. It is most difficult to maintain your character in the face of challenges and hardships, but this is exactly when it matters most. It’s easy to do the right thing when it is also the easy thing. But look at times of challenge as a test of your character, a chance to consistently prove the integrity of your brand.
Character builds (or undermines) trust, and trust builds goodwill
People will decide how to vote in this election based on who they trust or whether they feel they can trust any candidate at all. We may not have seen a strong display of character, integrity or purpose during this political season, but we will have to decide who to place our trust in regardless.
As a brand, it’s important to remember that consumers typically have more than two choices available to them. Whether they choose to engage with or buy a particular brand depends on whether they trust that brand. And consumer trust is earned by proving good character. So make a point of acting with integrity and using the multiple avenues at your disposal to consistently show your audience your good character.
The United States of America was built on the ultimate brand purpose, laid out in the powerful documents that formed our nation, from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to the Bill of Rights. Our founding fathers laid out our collective purpose so that clarity was undeniable and all future leaders would have a standard with which to guide their actions. There is no doubt that those wise men are turning in their graves.
In the midst of this national crisis of character, we can all take this opportunity to recognize the profound significance of integrity in our own lives, in our businesses and in our country. We all know how much is at stake over the next four years. If the leader of the United States does not at least try to live up to the character that our nation has claimed to represent for the last 240 years, we risk losing the trust of the global community.