Brian Chatter: Fudging Your Brand's History

August 18, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

Who hasn’t lied about their age?

Second 25th birthday. Perpetually turning 30. You know the spiel.

But what happens when a company or brand takes some liberties with their founding story?

Recently, The Wall Street Journal shared an article called “The Secret to Startup Success? Fudge Your Age.”

It cites note-taking app Evernote, which lists June 24, 2008 as its “cornerstone” date. However, the founder actually formed the company in 2002 and released its first product in 2004.

“There are a lot of important dates in a company’s history,” Chris O’Neill [chief executive of Evernote] said. “Our point of view is, ‘Let’s pick the most important date.’”

Turns out that Evernote isn’t alone in this mentality amongst other Silicon Valley startups. So when it comes to strategically placing and cultivating your brand’s history, what date do you sign off on?

The author of the WSJ article makes a good point: “In an industry where companies often change their principal products and brand identities and how they define their market segment, such malleability isn’t entirely surprising.”

He continues to write that investors will see all the dates on official documents anyway, so it’s not necessarily a huge issue.

Yet from a strategic standpoint, the answer to fudge or not to fudge an age comes down to being responsible about how a brand is portrayed to its audiences, but also the justice it does to its legacy.

Not all companies can just put a flag in the ground and declare that its officially a business. It could start as a side project before it even becomes anything concrete.

Furthermore, while looking young can be seen as a badge of honour for implying that success was found quickly, there’s also something to be said about the companies who can tout their longevity.

Out of all of this, it’s important to pick one story that’s truthful and sticking to it.

Be honest – audiences appreciate it because it makes the brand feel more real. And above all, don’t hose the people who were a part of your journey. Even if it was just the beginning phases, don’t reduce people to only being a part of the “beta.”

There’s no need to fudge a number just for the sake of it. Even people who are having their second 25th birthday have a reason for doing so.


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