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Brad Breininger & Marko Zonta

Zync - Journal | Brand voice—humble or arrogant?

Discussing opportunities when developing your brand's voice.

Brand voice—humble or arrogant?

Is your brand humble or arrogant? Where do you fall on the spectrum?

What does a humble or arrogant brand even mean? Is having an arrogant brand always negative? Is being humble always positive? In the end, you have to define where your brand needs to be.

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Recorded on October 23rd, 2020


Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s Everything is Brand. This week, we want to talk about whether your brand is humble or arrogant. Where do you fall on the spectrum? All right. So if we take a look at the meaning of humble and the meaning of arrogant, humble means that you show a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance. And arrogant means that you show an inflated sense of one’s own importance. So the question when it comes to branding is are you on the humble side? Or are you on the arrogant side? And arrogant can can have a little bit of a negative connotation, of course, and it does. Humble can have a little bit of a church nose kind of connotation. So you could even look at it as your brand quiet, or is it loud? Is your brand small? Or is it big? So Jeremy, what do you think? Are there two sides to the branding equation? And how should people determine where they fit on that spectrum?

Jeremy Linskill: 1:02

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s tough. I think there’s a lot of factors that come into this. And I think a lot of is driven by your competitors in the market, for instance, and things like that, like I think you try and find your way into the competition. But then from there, you’re kind of almost driven to be a certain way, based on what’s around you. So yeah, it’s a hard one, it’s I think this is a bit challenging to kind of determine where you net out immediately, I think it’s something that grows over time as you kind of navigate the industry and things like that. Yeah, I don’t know, what do you guys think?

Brad Breininger: 1:36

Let me ask this question, then to the group. Do brands make the mistake of being quiet when they should be loud or being loud when they should be quiet or being humble when it doesn’t serve them well? Or being arrogant in a way that turns people off? Do brands get it right? Or do they not get it right?

Marko Zonta: 1:53

I think that there are really kind of two things happening when it comes to that. One is actually doing things right? If you’re not doing anything, and you think of being humble from that perspective, you know, that’s not doing anything. So in marketing, we’ve talked about what those two words actually mean, thinking that you have something to say and something to put out and that your product is good, or your service is good. That’s not necessarily arrogant, but it’s believing in yourself and what you have to offer, and actually putting that out there, right? So it really talks about being proactive, being active, actually doing something, if you’re humble as a brand, you can still be out there and still push your services and your brand and be perceived as a more humble brand. But the opposite of that is not doing anything at all, and not even have a presence. That’s not being humble, that’s just not doing anything. And I would also add that the second part to all of that is who is your audience, I think that that determines a lot about, you know, how how you’re perceived in terms of your brand personality.

Jeremy Linskill: 2:59

But is humble also defined as you know, you have a good product and letting that product, do the work itself. And stand for itself, like that’s also a definition of being humble brand. No?

Marko Zonta: 3:09

Absolutely! But if you really have a great product, and it’s well designed, it has great reviews. Yeah, you don’t have to do as much in terms of marketing, because quite frankly, the buyers in your market will actually sell it on your behalf.

Jeremy Linskill: 3:27

Word of mouth.

Marko Zonta: 3:28

Yeah, exactly that’s the perception, right? So it will actually help that, which is really, ultimately where you would want to be in the first place so that we’re not spending a lot of your own money, because your product or service is so great. It’s the audience, your buyer, your consumer kind of takes that on and start spreading it.

Brad Breininger: 3:45

But don’t you run the risk If you rely on your customers to sell for you Don’t you run the risk that they’re going to get bored and move on to something else? Like I think that one of the things that I think is really important about this humble/arrogant conversation is that there are plenty of great products that history is littered with, that have not done well. And they’ve been superior products to competitors in the marketplace. But the scrappy little company that screamed from the rooftops, even if their product wasn’t as good has done better. And I guess one of the questions I would ask is, why is that and we’ve seen arrogant brands. And it’s funny because we chose the word arrogant for a really strong reason. If you look at a lot of these infomercials, they come across as very arrogant. Our product can do this and can do that and can do this. And we’re great. You need to buy it now and back now, it has a very arrogant kind of way. But the truth is, is that sometimes that results in sales. And that’s not the right situation for every single brand. But there are I think there are positive elements to kind of being an arrogant brand and marketplace. And there are definitely negative elements to it as well. But there are also positive and negative elements to being humble. And sometimes you can be so humble that you humble yourself right out of business.

Gabi Gomes: 4:58

Yeah, I was about to say that. I don’t think that you may necessarily always start off at humble or arrogant throughout the business lifecycle, right? Like, I think you may end up becoming more humble. If you’re too arrogant, perhaps that is your place in the marketplace. And that, you know, you’re known as being very aggressive, very whatever will all of a sudden, your customer service reps or all of a sudden going to be a little bit nicer to move that needle a little bit more towards humble? Because maybe you’re just losing revenue from having such an aggressive stand in the marketplace? Right? And then it takes another form. My question, is the humble versus arrogant? Does it stem from leadership? Does it stem from the workers? Does it stem from the audience that you sell your business or products to? Where does it truly lie? And does it stay with that company and those individuals? Or is it the audience? Or is it both? Basically?

Brad Breininger: 6:03

Yeah, I mean, I think if you have a humble brand and a humble audience, then you match right? Or you need to be a little quieter about your brand, then that fits. Part of the issue is that, especially now more than ever, there’s so much noise in the marketplace, I think it’s fine, to be humble, because you can be humble and loud. Or you can be arrogant and loud. And I think that, you know, it’s not a question of whether or not arrogance or humbleness has a positive or a negative element. I just want to read one thing: When I look at the term arrogance, there’s a question on Google that says is arrogance positive or negative. And it says: arrogance is a form of manipulation. And that’s true. So that’s not unlike any kind of sales or marketing. Sales and marketing can have a manipulative element to it, because you’re trying to get people to do something that you want them to do. And they say here, the essential nature of arrogance is inherently negative. However it has a positive aspect too. Vanity is the negative outcome and pride is the positive one. So I think that when you talk about humble or arrogant, there are elements of arrogance that I think we can pull from as we’re trying to figure out how to take our product or our service to the marketplace. And there are elements of humbleness as well. We talked about customer service reps being mean, Gabi. I don’t think that that necessarily has anything to do with arrogance. I’ve dealt with so many customers service reps that are pushy, right? Like you call in to ask a question, and then they try to sell you three other products. That’s a little bit arrogant, right?

Gabi Gomes: 7:34

That’s not customer service! That’s sales!

Brad Breininger: 7:37

Well, yeah, some people call it sales, but at the same time, it can, it can feel a little off putting sometimes. So I think looking at where you sit on the continuum, and being able to move back and forth is an important aspect of this whole conversation.

Marko Zonta: 7:50

And a big part of all of that is also your audience, right? It really depends on who your audiences and what you’re actually selling. If you’re selling cigars, you’re probably speaking to a very specific personality, because it takes a certain type of personality or person or their position to buy that particular product. Sportscars! Again, if you are selling a Ferrari, like you are talking to a very specific audience, right? So they’re probably not very humble, and they have a certain type of approach to life. They’re a little bit bolder, they’re a little bit louder, right? So it really depends on who you’re selling to, what’s your product and who you’re selling it to.

Brad Breininger: 8:31

Yeah, that brings up a really good point. Gabi, you asked earlier doesn’t have anything to do with the leadership or I think often, leadership determines whether a brand is quiet or loud in the marketplace, humbler? arrogant whatever it might be. And I think that sometimes that’s a real problem, because the personality of the leadership isn’t necessarily the best judge of what you should be in the marketplace. It goes back to what you’re saying, Marco, which is the audience, and who are you trying to sell to. So the creator of the Ferrari could be a very quiet, humble man, but what he’s created is something that appeals to more aggressive men and women that are looking for a sports car where they kind of show themselves differently in their lives. And I think that it really comes back down to looking at the audience and understanding how you want to be perceived in the marketplace. And then I think the other piece to that is, are you getting any traction? So you may have decided to be a little more quiet with your brand but if you’re not getting any traction in the marketplace, you better do something or you’re gonna, you know, humble yourself at a business, as we said earlier, but if you’re also being arrogant, and people are responding and saying, no, we’re not responding to this, and then you need to change your tack there as well. So it really comes down to this idea of being adaptable and knowing your audience and and not necessarily taking your own personality as a leadership team or as a group of employees and putting that on whatever it is that you’re trying to sell in the marketplace.

Marko Zonta: 9:59

A big part of that, is really aligning who your audience is with what you’re selling and how you want to do that. I think a great example of that when Walmart was redesigned to years back, I thought that they did a really good job redesigning that brand. And I’m not critiquing the brand itself, like the logo, whatever. It doesn’t matter if I like the logo or not. But what I thought they’ve done really well is the way it’s designed. It speaks to the right audience, right? They are, I mean, we know what Walmart does what they stand for. And that particular brand is very well aligned with that, would I consider it more on the humble side, perhaps from the personality point of view, but they’re actually quite aggressive in terms of the marketing tactics and everything else, right. So, so that personalities a little bit more on the quiet, humble side, because that is, who their audience is, but they’re definitely out there and pushing their brand. And then another example is Dyson, the kind of products that they redesigned the vaccum cleaner, that is just a regular product, yet by redesigning it and reintroducing it as a high design product that speaks to a very specific audience. Are they arrogant? I wouldn’t say that they’re arrogant. They’re just very, very confident that by doing that, and making it better, they actually can charge more. And quite frankly, a lot of people bought into that, right. So it actually worked for them, they really figured out how to position your brand.

Gabi Gomes: 11:35

Interestingly enough, I see humble and arrogance in both of those brands, you know, going back to the Walmart example. So, Walmart gives a lot back to the community, in terms of their products being made in Canada is also one of their bigger tenants. And, you know, maintaining lower prices to help everybody out. Ultimately, they’re lining their pockets, for sure. But there’s aspects of that that are humbled, but yet as a big box store, for sure. There’s arrogance there as well. On your other example with Dyson same thing, leadership seems to be very humble, very solving a simple problem bringing the best, but then yes, this thing is so good, so expensive, that only, you know, a select few niche people can kind of really afford it. Right? It kind of goes into that luxury brand area as well. Right? But would I personally think that that company has both It started off as solving a simple problem, very humble beginnings. But yet price point of that thing, maybe a very arrogant stance. We’ve talked about this, I think even with the coffee and Tim Hortons. Did Tim Hortons lose the humbleness that it had? It was always a Canadiana, very local, local, not really, because it’s on every corner. But you know, Canadiana brand? Did we lose the humbleness of Tim Hortons somewhere along the way over the last few years? And are we saying that Starbucks is super arrogant? Because they provide a premium coffee? I don’t know!

Jeremy Linskill: 13:08

We did talk about this a little bit, right? With Tim Hortons, the fact that they were humble. But when you start to appear on every corner, can you still be humble? I’m not sure. Right? Like, I think that they have to evolve, they have to change based on growing their place in the market. And I think that that’s, you have to recognize that as a brand as well, you maybe you can’t be humble forever, maybe you can’t be arrogant forever, you have to constantly change with the times.

Brad Breininger: 13:34

It’s funny that you say that Jeremy, because the thing that pops into my head is that is it possible for a big multinational organization to be humble? And the other side of that coin is, is it possible for a scrappy little startup to be humble? Right? Like, it’s almost like when you’re at either end of the spectrum, you have to be a little bit arrogant, whether it’s in how you price, whether you’re a luxury brand or not. Whether you push your suppliers to offer you things at a lower, lower price like Walmart does. And if you’re a scrappy little startup, you kind of have to be a little arrogant to stand out from the pack, right? Like, it’s almost like the ability to be humble, sit somewhere in the middle. So if you’re somewhere in the middle, then it’s a lot easier for you to do that. Now, going back to what you were saying about being both sides of that point. I think that that’s another interesting element to this is that if you’re too much of one thing, it’s not good. Like because the truth is, is that if we meet someone, if we look at brands as personalities, if we meet someone who’s overly humble, and they never show any other element, we call them a little bit of a wet noodle, right? Like it’s like, Okay, this person is not standing up for themselves. I don’t see any confidence. But then if you get a you know, an arrogant person that totally talks about how great they are and how wonderful they are and how much they’re going to affect your life. That’s not good either. You just don’t ever want to be around that person. The reality is, is that when we look at people, we want that content combination of things we want a little bit of arrogance, confidence, loudness, and then we want a little bit of self deprecation, a little bit of humbleness, a little bit of the ability to say, Okay, I’m not perfect, and I’m okay with that. So I think the reality is, that it’s not a question of humble or arrogant, I think it’s a question of how much humbleness and how much arrogance is the right mix for your brand. Because if you are on either end of that spectrum, you’re not actually accomplishing anything. And you see brands all the time that are so arrogant that no one wants to deal with them, or they’re so humble that they no one even knows who they are, what they’re doing, or what they offer into the marketplace. So finding that right combination for you. And it goes back to what you were saying earlier, taking a look at the leaders of the organization, what can you draw from their personality or from their ability to present in the marketplace? Taking a look at the audience that you’re trying to sell into? What are their expectations? Are they currently in a humble state of mind? Are they currently in an arrogant state of mind? What kind of mix can you offer, and still make an impact to them. And then finally, understanding what your product or service is. If you’re trying to sell a product that requires a little bit more confidence, a little bit more loudness, and you’re doing it in a humble way, then perhaps you’re not meeting the marketplace. And the last thing you want to do is not be able to present your brand in the best possible light in the marketplace. So look at the spectrum, figure out where your brand needs to be on different kind of things. And as we’ve talked about in the past, pull the right levers to get the right mix of what you need to be in the marketplace. So it’s not a question of humble or arrogance. It’s a question of how are you going to mix it up? That’s this week’s version of Everything is Brand. Join us next week for a new topic, a new conversation, and remember, everything is brand.

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