Protecting an Identity
It’s amazing what someone else’s identity can help you get away with.
I was listening to the hourly news recap on NPR during my commute to work the other day and, per usual, the newscast began with a list of NPR sponsors. As I absently listened to the soothing, humdrum voice reading the names and taglines of various charitable organizations, respected businesses and endowment funds like a children’s bedtime story, my ears perked up at the final sponsor listed: LifeLock.
In case you haven’t watched much daytime television in the last decade, LifeLock is a fraud protection service so brazenly confident in its offerings that a former CEO posted his social security number on billboard trucks claiming LifeLock could protect identities from any would be predator.
This turned out to be a slight over-exaggeration. The CEO who shared his social security number for the whole wide world to see has had his identity stolen over a dozen times since the ad campaign was launched, and LifeLock was taken to task by the FTC on the grounds of false advertising.
Now, perhaps it's just standard millennial naivety, but I’ve never once questioned an NPR sponsor. Charitable or for profit, every sponsor name I’ve ever heard before or after a segment has rung with respectable credibility. I’d expect nothing less of NPR. I was perplexed as to why they would risk the above par reputable nature of its sponsor list (one that LifeLock is clearly attempting to benefit from association with) and wondered how many other less than wholesome businesses had flooded my ears with nonsense over NPR’s radio waves.
I had trouble believing it. So great is my trust in the publicly funded station that I honestly assumed LifeLock must have cleaned up their act in order to get the spot rather than believe NPR would lend their name and credibility to the faulty brand.
I was wrong.
LifeLock’s radio spot ends with a warning that your identity could be at risk in the event of a massive data breach. Like the recent breach fumbled by Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency responsible for letting hackers get away with millions and millions of Americans' social security numbers (along with other sensitive information).
All well and good, right? Surely, if LifeLock had indeed improved their service this would be a protection that consumers both want and need. Minor issue though, turns out the credit score checks that LifeLock uses to monitor identities is outsourced to a big consumer credit reporting agency life Equifax. And when I say “like” I mean REALLY like.
This means a significant portion of LifeLock’s revenue goes directly back to an organization whose misdeeds may have caused a surge in LifeLock’s sales.
I’m going to steer away from discussing the sheer magnitude of shady brand ethics at play here, funnier people than me have already done so.
Instead, I want to turn attention back to NPR, namely, the willingness to compromise such a trusted brand name with such a fraudulent sponsor.
If Dawn, the gentle soap that has so successfully displayed their commitment to cleaning up the environment and caring for wildlife was found to be funneling money from every sale into British Petroleum you better believe it would take a hit, both in name and dollar. The distrust brought about would be so great that once loyal consumers and retail partners wouldn’t give a second thought to abandoning the brand in favor of another. We’ve seen this same scenario play out with celebrities and their endorsements (Tiger Woods anyone?) time and time again.
I don’t mean to sound insensitive here. Capsule is a project to project firm. We understand, more than most, the importance that every dollar holds to the bottom line. But, while projects will always come and go. We’ve learned that there’s a lasting component of our business that brings immeasurable value (and tangible dollars) through the door.
We’ve painstakingly filled the vessel of the Capsule brand with identity and meaning, building a trusted reputation in the process, and this in turn, brings actual measurable value to our firm.
Components of brand identity (name, values, reputation, etc.) are an incredible asset to the business holding it. When one company acquires another, an astounding amount of the value paid is often for the brand assets that contribute to its identity. Compromising brand identity with words and actions that run counter to what the brand stands for sows consumer distrust and leads to very real monetary losses.
As tantalizing as it may be to take a big ticket client on, we’ve learned in our decades around the block to seek clients that match our values as a firm and do our very best not to pair ourselves with clients that run counter to what we stand for, no matter the dollar amount. When you begin to compromise on even the little things like who you’re associated with and who you let pay your bills, you begin to give pieces of your hard earned identity away.
And like many of the victims of the Equifax breach can attest to, once you lose pieces of your identity they can be very difficult to gain back.
Considering the detailed attention and care NPR has recently given to issues of misconduct and fraudulence in recent impeachment hearings, you’d think they’d dedicate at least some attention to what sponsors they’re getting into bed with themselves.
When it comes to identity, you can dig trenches, build moats and drawbridges, set deadbolts, bar your windows and lock your doors to protect yourself. Brands can protect their identities from theft using copyrights, trademarks and lawsuits until they’re blue in the face.
But if you’re simply giving your identity away, there’s really no use in protecting it, is there?