This National Geographic issue addressing global plastic pollution, comes to your home in a plastic bag. The irony, the humor, the paradox. Branding is all about being consistent and being authentic, and this is not a great example of it.

In 2014, 1000 customers were asked which brands are the most authentic and/or honest. Granted, this research was 4 years old but the underlying message still holds up today:

Not surprisingly, Heinz, Disney and Ferrari score highest. What do these three brands have in common?

  1. They have a (very) long lasting history
    All of these brands are more than 71 years old (Ferrari is youngest – created in 1947)
  2. They are well-known for one particular thing
    Heinz for its ketchup, Disney for creating awesome enticing children’s movies, and Ferrari for creating kick-ass power cars
  3. They are universally recognizable
    All three have a very unique brand presence and recognition: Heinz and Ferrari are known for their typical red colors, Disney for its colorful, decorative logo and visual communication.
  4. They all had a strong leader
    Henry John Heinz, Walt Disney, Enzo Ferrari
  5. They show continuous consistency in their product quality, performance and experience

Although all of the above notions might hold true, they’re probably a bunch more to point out. However, for now let’s focus on point 5 (being consistent in quality, performance and experience).

Ask yourself:

  • Would Ferrari ever produce an engine that is not top-notch, or carefully designed until the very last nut and bolt?
  • Would Disney release an animation movie that was not created by the global top talent of writers, animators and producers?
  • Did you ever open a Heinz bottle or beans-can that did not have the authentic, same taste you always get from them?

Exactly, all of these brands ensure they deliver consistent experiences and quality. What makes this happen is indeed the help and vision of a strong leader, as well as the continuous focus on one particular thing, not diversifying your offering more than needed. However, most all of it’s about staying true to what you believe. Ultimately, this makes your brand credible, authentic and trustworthy. (Remember: trust is a result, not something you can induce instantly. It is quite naive to think you can launch a brand and yield trust from day one.)

“It is quite naive to think you can launch a brand and yield trust from day one.”

Going back to our example of National Geographic. If anything, having a plastic wrap for an issue about plastic waste, makes you think how much the company really cares about the subject and to what extent it is willing to make a change. Think, for example, the impact of NatGeo announcing tomorrow that they will  substitute all of their plastic for a 100% biodegradable packaging globally. They would gain so much more credibility when writing a piece about climate and ocean pollution, frankly.