Imposter Syndrome & Living up to Brand Promises

Posted by Ezra Skobeloff
Jul
07
2020

Catch Me If You Can is one of my favorite movies. The acting is superb, the character development is intimate, and the story is captivating. Perhaps it also evokes thoughts of my own work as an imposter.

Like me, many creatives and artists suffer from imposter syndrome — the belief that we’re inadequate or incompetent, despite evidence to the contrary. 

“It’s rare that I ever love the work that I produce,” shared Bryon Lomas, Creative Director - Design at the Garfield Group. “It’s not that it isn’t work that is loved by the client or isn’t very successful, I guess it’s just a ‘me’ thing.”

“When things are subjective and opinions ooze out of every crevice, it’s easy to let self-doubt grab hold,” said Alexis Sawyer, Creative Director - Copy. “But then you need to remind yourself that you’re awesome and kick self-doubt to the curb.”

Not all of us have such conviction, though. And that includes our clients.

Like people, businesses have been thrust into an unprecedented situation. And like for people, these last few months have pushed many brands to take stock of who they are, what their values truly are, and where they want to go from here.

These reflective times have inspired many brands to explore a greater meaning — to stand for something bigger. But somewhere between exploration and execution, many brands stutter. And this is a direct result of brand imposter syndrome. 

Moving from strategy to creative is a momentous and sometimes scary time for brand managers. To decision makers, real-life brand messaging can look like giant neon signs equipped with the big flashing arrow that functionally says, “Look at me if there were only one thing you could ever look at again!” And what if what you see — the message that’s supposed to embody your brand — seems too daring, too grandiose, too much to promise?

Truth is, branding that really works feels risky (at first). It’s different. It stands out. It engages you in a way your competitors’ brands don’t. 

And that all sounds fantastic. But what if you’re the business that needs to live up to those expectations? The fear of under-delivering moves decision makers toward the safe choice. The fear of being a brand imposter moves them toward the messaging that sounds somewhat familiar.

As sufferers of imposter syndrome, let us encourage you. If you and your agency have done the work to define your authentic self, then the work they present should highlight your identity in unique ways. It all stems from the work to define your meaning. So if you’re authentic in your conviction and commitment to your brand message — if you truly stand by what your brand stands for — you need to say it out loud. Shout it from the rooftops. 

The trouble many brand and marketing teams have is in the difference between feeling and seeing. You may feel a certain sentiment about your company and what you stand for. But when you see it in messaging — when your brand is brought to life — your first instinct may be to run to safety.

You are more than capable. 

In fact, if you see your brand as an opportunity to push for more — more emotion, more engagement, more impact — you’re more inclined to continually improve your customer experience. And that — as much as any message or logo — will shape your brand in ways that no one can fake.