“Branding without authenticity is just marketing.” I’ve made this statement in presentations and consistently receive positive responses and head-nodding. But how many people really believe that to control and manage your reputation, and design a legacy for how you will be known, you need to be authentic? What is “authenticity” anyway?
I see authenticity as that which is real and true to who you are. When you act consistent with your values, you build integrity and that reflects your authenticity. Not all authenticity is pleasant, but it is consistent and grounded in values that are uniquely held by the entity being authentic. Some might argue Donald Trump is not very enjoyable to be around, but his values and actions align, building integrity and he reflects what appears to be an authentic brand.
Authenticity is Key to Successful Branding
In the same way businesses have a brand, so do individuals — either by default or by design. We have reputations and leave legacies created by our behavior, in the minds of those with whom we interact. Strong personal brands have reputations that are consistent with the individual’s values, beliefs and desires. Strong business brands reinforce the expectation of the experience the consumer/client will have with the product or service.
The process of branding, whether personal or business, puts us in touch with that which is genuine and authentic. Brands cannot cover up inadequacies (i.e. lack of market knowledge) nor can they make us something we’re not.
By understanding and exploring your passions, interests, motivators and challenges, we can better articulate your value to the audiences who need to see you as relevant. The goal is to have control over the brand you live, how it’s expressed, and how others assign you value and relevance. Authenticity is the critical component to developing successful personal and business brands that have longevity.
Tips to Ensure Your Brand is Authentic
To assess whether you are living and marketing an authentic brand, you ask yourself these questions:
- Are you living consistently with your values? If you promote a brand of trust, are you being trustworthy? How do you demonstrate that your clients can trust you?
- Solicit feedback. One of the best ways to know if your intentions are matching your actions is to solicit honest and constructive feedback from key stakeholders. At LIDA360, we use a feedback instrument that enables us to measure and quantify expectations and results against brand perception.
- Do a gut check. Are you making decisions which don’t quite feel “right”? When our brand values are clear, it is easy to evaluate decisions and opportunities to determine the good ones, and ignore those which will not support the mission of the organization, or fulfill our goals. Without brand clarity, every new opportunity is given equal weight and consideration.
- Is your marketing aligned with your brand values? Are you promoting a brand of organic, natural brand quality yet producing expensive, slick and cumbersome collateral that sends a wasteful message? Look for inconsistencies before your clients spot them!
Developing and expressing an authentic personal or business brand is empowering, liberating and gives you the confidence to know that your choices are clear, your actions deliberate, and the results you achieve are yours!