If only we had a dollar for every time a tryhard corporate or agency hipster (ok yes, even sometimes us) put ‘authentic’ into a sentence… but the thing with buzzwords, and overused clichés, is they often get their notoriety for a reason.
So let’s ponder for a moment on this idea of authenticity. Why is it so important? Isn’t being authentic, well, kinda obvious?
Humans need to connect. They need to belong. It’s necessary for fundamental happiness. In fact it’s literally necessary for our survival. But, what gives you a sense of belonging? It’s about both seeing and being seen. Really seen. It’s about connecting on a deeper level. And in this crazy, frenetic world we now live in connection is the new currency.
We are living in a time where it’s not about work/life balance, it’s about work/life harmony, where we are encouraged to be vulnerable (thanks Brené Brown) and live wholeheartedly. We don’t have a ‘home’ persona and a work ‘persona’ and a perfect little commute in between (in fact right now, many of us don’t even have a commute at all). We can’t really separate business and personal, because at the end of the day business is personal.
”Authenticity is more than speaking; Authenticity is also about doing. Every decision we make says something about who we are.” Simon Sinek
People aren’t BSable anymore.
The other thing is, consumers are tired of BS. Cashed up brands can’t send out a message on free to air TV anymore safe in the knowledge that viewers will have to ‘trust’ what they are saying. There has been a huge shift that has given power over to the consumer and they can smell inauthenticity a mile away. In the recent Edelman Trust Barometer report 53 percent of consumers reported that they’re able to spot “trust-washing” – a term the report uses to describe when companies are less than truthful with the public. Trust is now almost as important as quality and value.
The definition of authentic is ‘of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.’ I love it. I am sitting here right now, I am not a copy, I am the genuine Jodie de Vries. The only one quite like me.
And considering we are hugely complex, incredibly intelligent, intensely emotional beings… How much easier is it to be the genuine hugely complex, incredibly intelligent, intensely emotional being that you are, than try and be one that you are not? That sounds seriously hard.
Authenticity in brand building
So for all you entrepreneurs out there remember that branding at its core – whether it is about your own personal branding, or branding your business – is about being seen for who you truly are. And it’s about truly seeing the people you engage with for who they are. It’s about connecting on that deeper level to create a tribe (note: additional buzzword) and a strong sense of belonging. A shared set of beliefs. None of that is remotely possible without authenticity.
Branding is also about consistency across time. Absolute discipline across channels, mediums and locations. It’s very hard to be consistent for the long haul at the best of times, let alone if you are trying to be someone or something you are not.
The other thing is, there is just so much competition out there. It’s fierce. Standing out is difficult, cultivating a point of difference (and maintaining it) is a real challenge. The barrier to entry is low and businesses are launching every day. But guess what? No one can copy your youness. So go be you as hard as you can.
3 key areas to building an authentic brand
Here at The Brand Brigade we talk fairly interchangeably between personal brand building and business brand building, because on the whole many of the same fundamental principles apply.
- Dig deep and spend time clearly defining your brand – what it stands for, the why / bigger purpose, the values and a deep, deep understanding of the target audience. Getting this step spot on is essential to building an authentic brand. Can’t quite nail it? Stay on this point until you do. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right.
- Bring it to life in ways that convey that secret sauce, that uncopyable ‘you-ness’ or essence. The way the brand looks, sounds, talks and behaves.
- Drive it home with ferocious consistency. Have every single touchpoint singing from the same song sheet.
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Jodie + Em xx