Bold is beautiful: how brand confidence has become a measure of our success

This is a guest post from planning director at BMW, Moensie Rossier.

Of all personal and brand qualities, confidence is among the most desirable, yet it’s is a double- edged sword. While confidence brings success and popularity, it can also bring economies and brands to their knees. But to avoid the pitfalls, couple confidence with self-awareness. Now, that’s being bold.

Confidence has become a measure of our success. No CEO report is complete without a generous smattering of the word “confident”. It’s shorthand for having presence, stand-out and charisma and every brand wants it. “Maybe just do it?” Doesn’t have quite the same ring.

We always strive to boost confidence, never the opposite. It’s the first quality we inspire in children. With confidence, anything is possible. Research by Cornell University suggests that confidence, bordering on over-confidence, may contribute to our evolutionary success.

Our collective love affair with confidence is so ardent that, at times, it seems over-the-top, almost irrational. As it turns out from research into how our brains work, over-confidence is a cognitive bias that we’re all prone to, without necessarily being aware of it.

While confidence biases can work in our favour, they can also result in perceptual distortion (not seeing what’s in front of you, or seeing things that aren’t really there), unrealistic expectations, an inflated sense of self-worth and just plain bad decisions.

In my last article on Masterbrands, I referenced J P Morgan’s hubris in imagining that social media audiences wanted to cuddle up to them when, in fact, many people regarded them as crooks. A lack of self-awareness got them into trouble.

The telco market is plagued by over-confidence. Vodafail was the poster child. Vodafone paid lip service to its failures, but, arguably, never really reflected upon them. It recovered its swagger perhaps too quickly and now expects consumers to engage with the brand emotionally and positively, even with a childlike wonder, with hardly a murmur of complaint.

To avoid the pitfalls of over-confidence, the trick is to be self-aware. Apply your rational mind to channel your confidence and make sure it’s working for you, not against you.

Some brands make a virtue out of their knowing arrogance. With a knowing wink to its niche audience of the severely over-privileged, Bentley has done this to a tee over the years. Similarly KIIS 1065’s Kyle Sandilands is the DJ with nine lives, thanks to his forthright approach of “it’s all about me”.

At the other end of the spectrum, introspection or humility can also be a bold move. Domino’s pizza took customer dissatisfaction to heart and reinvented itself on the back of it.

Our new campaign for Weet-Bix is bold in its ambition to unify all of Australia. It attempts to do so in a disarming way that prompts reflection and encourages self-examination and debate.

You can’t get people talking about your brand without being bold. At BWM, we always look for a bold approach so we can ignite conversation to popularise brands, but we acknowledge that there are many ways to achieve this successfully.

Sometimes it’s the full throttle confidence that burns like the sun and has gravitational pull. Sometimes humility is the bolder course of action. Either path can be very successful if you choose your course wisely.

Not hiding from the truths of your brand but confronting perceptions and reality head on with a full sense of self-awareness is when boldness becomes truly beautiful.

Moensie Rossier
BY Moensie Rossier ON 18 February 2014
Moensie Rossier, planning director at BWM, is a well-travelled planning director and digital trends writer, with advertising and media experience in the UK, Belgium and Australia. She’s worked on major FMCG brands from P&G, Unilever, Colgate Palmolive, Campbell Arnott’s and Sanitarium, as well as technology, telco, tourism and government accounts.