Why Are We Obsessed With Gutsy Brands?

Mar 3, 2022

Most successful brands did something at a point in their history which, while it may seem perfectly normal in retrospect, at the time was something that took guts and did not guarantee a positive outcome. 

In 2004, Unilever launched the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. By featuring real women in their advertising, without “photo-shopping”, they changed how we look at beauty, while trying to raise the self-esteem of women and girls, globally. 

In 2009, Domino’s, very publicly, admitted and marketed the revelation that their pizza was bad and committed to a dramatic makeover, creating better pizza and a culture of innovation. 

In 2013, Netflix launched “House of Cards”, pivoting from their position as a distributor to become one of the most prolific entertainment producers in the world. 

In 2014, CVS stopped selling cigarettes in their 7600 stores, to be true to the values of being a healthcare brand and company, walking away from $2 billion in annual sales, and helping to reduce the number of smokers in the U.S.  

Imagine the discussion and debate within the walls of these companies, each taking significant risks to their business and brands. These decisions and campaigns took real guts, helped to build authentic brands and, in every case, drove significant business improvement, brand value, and dramatic financial benefit to their companies.  

It is easy to emulate what other brands do in a category. It takes guts to win in the most competitive marketplace this world has ever seen. Gutsy brands work hard to stand out and, importantly, they are authentic and consistent, not driving flash-in-the-pan success, rather longevity and affinity.  

Being gutsy is not limited to breakthrough ideas, huge risks, and major business pivots. Everyday brands and marketing decisions are driven by the same principles and ideas.   

Just last week I saw a Domino’s ad in which they are giving away gift cards for competitive, local restaurants in solidarity with businesses hit hard by the pandemic. A current ad campaign from Vroom, the online car marketplace company, effectively demonstrates the value of their buying experience, in particular for women who often feel snubbed at brick-and-mortar auto dealers.  

Some of the best and most recognized brands make gutsy decisions daily. They are rooted in transparency and have an implicit understanding of who they serve and why. They comprehend the power of vulnerability and speaking to people as humans, while staying true to their brand identity. They’re just plain ol’ gutsy and they keep us latched on to their every move.

What do these brands have in common? 

Lead with Empathy 

Brands that understand us, and how we truly live our lives, speak to us with compassion and authenticity. Similar to the Dove example above, they deliver experiences that are “real”, creating trust and affinity.  

Pioneer New Paths 

The pace of change in the world continues to make it evident for all brands that the only way to grow is to innovate – like Impossible Foods demonstrated in bringing quality plant-based products to fast food. “Me tooism” only lasts so long and gets a brand so far.  

Stand Behind Bold Ideas 

It’s one thing to have a bold idea, it’s gutsy to stand behind it. When Netflix first launched a subscription streaming service, many couldn’t grasp the concept, but the company stayed the course and solved a need we didn’t even know existed.  

Realize the Power of “AND” 

Many marketers and innovators are regularly faced with trade-off decisions. There is power in saying “Yes, AND…”, and seizing opportunities where others force compromise. By adhering to design and technology values, Apple has managed to be nearly ubiquitous while still being cool.  

Why should brands care to be gutsy?  

There are very few minutes throughout the day that humans aren’t interacting with brands. So why not ensure people choose to interact and obsess with yours? Gutsy brands aren’t things we just buy, rather they often change a behavior or create a new habit, as they become a part of our lives. Gutsy brands build loyalty and build value.  

Join the GutCheck community and our Gutsiest Brands conversation, as we endeavor to help brands and people to truly connect with one another!

Written By

Rob Wengel

Rob Wengel

Chief Executive Officer

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