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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

@redrosestudios@TheDotConnector, would love to hear your thoughts! What are you recommending for clients looking to tell an authentic brand story? @JulieatTheWELL, is "authenticity" something that can be coached?

 

Can messaging be authentic and also strategic? Does one cancel out the other?

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

Such a timely question @EmilyCowan! I had an hour-long coaching session yesterday with 6 of the women in my program on exactly this - how to build a business "by design" based on your authentic skills, passion, and personality.  

 

It's easy to get seduced into offering services that fit a need in the marketplace, but my philosophy is to build something that is deeply and uniquely YOU, and then find the clients that resonate deeply as well. This perspective combined with offerings that are of high-value with premium pricing is an amazing formula for a creating a high impact and highly profitable business that you love. 

 

Bottom Line: Be YOU. Find clients that love what you offer. Never build a business that you don't love because you might accidentally become really successful at something that robs your joy.  

 

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

@EmilyCowan 

In essence, a brand is a promise -- inextricably linked to the product(s)/service(s) it represents. In this day and age where information is at everyone's fingertips, consumers and customers seeking the truth on a brand's ability to keep its promises can verify it with a few clicks.

 

And so as consumer behaviors evolve with the power to easily access information before making decisions, they actively look for and demand verifiable authenticity, consistency, and virtue from brands. It's not that they're unforgiving or intolerant of anything less than perfection -- in fact, when brands have problems and demonstrably acknowledge and resolve them in a timely manner, they at times actually earn MORE loyalty than those who may not even experience those problems in the first place; but as we all are entitled to the truth and have the ability to get to it, prospects and customers are more likely to reward and be loyal to those brands that exhibit authenticity by consistently keeping their promises.

 

Conversely, consumers also have the power to share out disappointments and let-downs when brands don't meet their promises. That information is often shared out and accessible to others, including strangers, and may be deemed as valid information for consideration by a customer or prospect looking to assess a brand.

 

We all work too hard to have the wool pulled over our eyes -- authenticity is transparent and verifiable, and as such, a key component of brand success.

 

It's important. A brand may be authentic, or not. There's nothing in between.

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

@TheDotConnector, I completely agree! The old adage "honesty is the best policy" is truer now than ever thanks to Google - you can lie all you want but you'll never get away with it Smiley Happy

 

In my mind there are two real keys to brand authenticity (and I'm only speaking here with the authority that we all have as consumers): transparency and the willingness to take responsibility for mistakes made or promises unkept. I find that some companies still struggle with the second part, despite the fact that - you're absolutely right - the companies that DO manage to do this well are richly rewarded in terms of reputation and loyalty in the marketplace.

 

I wrote about this a while back, referencing a case I'm sure you'll remember: "Oh FCK, You Just Messed Up Big-Time" (LOL, I could have just hyperlinked to it but I really wanted to type that headline again!)

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

Brand authenticity is making the most of your business strengths which can result in establishing a standard in your niche. More than that, it's the characteristic that is visible in the business culture. It's your brand's way of showing up for your customers in a way that matters to them; by listening to them, being trustworthy and caring about what they care about. Today, with a plethora of choices, taking an interest in your customers or clients beyond the sale is critical to the lifecycle of your business.

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

That's such an interesting point, @ElaineTay-TGW! Branding is all about communication, but for me it often feels like a one-way street, i.e. "This is the idea that we want you to associate with our company, product, or service" (Coke = Soda + Happiness). I either receive the message or I don't. If brand authenticity = communication with integrity then maybe it's got to be more of an ongoing conversation between business and consumer, especially now thanks to social media. @JulieatTheWELL@TheDotConnector, what do you think? Has the concept of "brand authenticity" actually changed the way branding has traditionally been done?

 

Elaine, would you say that "showing up for your customers in a way that matters to them; by listening to them, being trustworthy and caring about what they care about" is true of all authentic brands, or are these characteristics more specific to your personal brand? That all sounds so YOU!

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

The days where a brand could craft its message and send it out to the world as being carved in stone are over. As you indicate, the brand at best can state its position and communicate it, but then it's no longer "owned" by the brand in the same sense that it used to be; it now becomes shared with the world -- consumers, prospects, customers -- and they can do with the brand what they wish, to a large extent. The brand is no longer this stoic monolith that stands unchallenged, but rather is an equal voice in a digitally-connected ecosystem and community, no more powerful than any other voice. At best, a brand can prove its authenticity beyond its carefully-crafted positioning by being an equal and active peer participant within these dynamic communities. A brand's true colors will come through in timely, unscripted interactions that will define their authenticity through consistency in communications, performance, and actions -- not as an unassailable authority, but as a respectful peer.

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

Well said, @TheDotConnector!

 

I imagine that the new landscape is absolutely terrifying for large companies whose brands account for a significant percentage of their valuation. For smaller businesses, it seems like a massive opportunity for differentiation in the marketplace, as @ElaineTay-TGW pointed out.

 

@CoherentCreativ, I'd love to bring you in on this convo! What are you seeing on the more visual/design end of things? What does "brand authenticity" look like?

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

I think there are brands that have for one reason or another implemented all three among other things to help them own or keep their share of their market. Some may not have in their beginnings believing that it may have been a trend. Buying practices are shifting and to customers, what you sell is just as important and how you sell it and why.

Yes, you are right @EmilyCowan!  Listening, trustworthiness and caring are major for me even in this beginning stage. I want my customers to have the freedom of creating their own experience. If the conversation is 'real', I know my customers are more willing to lean into my business with their dollars. 

Marketing for me feels the same way, I would love to convert by conversation and education, really making it a joint venture and not feeling like I'm hunting all the time.

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

@ElaineTay-TGW wrote:

I think there are brands that have for one reason or another implemented all three among other things to help them own or keep their share of their market. Some may not have in their beginnings believing that it may have been a trend. Buying practices are shifting and to customers, what you sell is just as important and how you sell it and why.

Yes, you are right @EmilyCowan!  Listening, trustworthiness and caring are major for me even in this beginning stage. I want my customers to have the freedom of creating their own experience. If the conversation is 'real', I know my customers are more willing to lean into my business with their dollars. 

Marketing for me feels the same way, I would love to convert by conversation and education, really making it a joint venture and not feeling like I'm hunting all the time.


Love this, @ElaineTay-TGW!

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

Thanks for bringing me in Emily!

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

So… Brand Authenticity… It’s one area where being a small business is a definite advantage over a huge monolithic one. The phrase “small enough to care, big enough to cope” springs to mind straight away!


Smaller businesses can be a lot more focused on their individual customers. While it IS often about service and care, it can also be about telling an authentic story about your company. One which resonates with your customers.

I think that it comes down to a simple concept. Honesty.
I'm going to kick it off by asking a bunch of questions…

Why are are you doing what you're doing?
What's so different about your company, product or service?
What's your brand story?
If you're a startup, what made you start your own business what did you do before, and what led you to do what you're doing now?
If your company has been around for a while – what's the history? How does that inform what you do today?

 

Answer these questions and you'll start to get a handle on what's at the heart of your brand. You start to develop a brand story… it can be a simplified version of the whole story – and one that designed to appeal to your customers – but it MUST have honesty at its core.
Be true to yourself, and your customers. What does that mean in practice?
Well, if you're a restaurant use the appropriate ingredients.
If you're selling 'eco' services – walk the walk – be 'green' every step of the way. From where you get your energy to the stock you print your business cards on. If you sell retro rock'n'roll gear, use the right language and imagery.

Once you've got your story right, it's about being consistent in how you tell that story – consciously and unconsciously every time you interact with your customer. Get your visual identity right, and you well on track to getting your brand right. This may all sound complicated, but really it's not.

 

As a small business, you always want to appear professional – but sometimes an element of the 'crafted' or 'homemade' can have more appeal – and more authenticity than "the big boys". It's how you differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

On a side note, Brand authenticity is not always about outstanding customer service – there’s a pub in London’s Soho district, The Coach & Horses, that was always frequented by some very colourful characters; actors, writers and assorted creative folk. But it was most famous for its landlord, Norman, who was purported to be “England’s Rudest Landlord”. On the couple of occasions I encountered him, the experience was definitely “authentic”! The pub was clever enough to capitalise on it, and the unofficial name for the pub became “Norman’s” which was even written on the signage. Funnily enough, there was a Chinese Restaurant around the corner with famously rude waiters – and people flocked to both places to be insulted! Please use this approach to authenticity with caution!

 

I've rambled on a bit – but "Brand Authenticity" can be summed up in a quote "Be yourself – everyone else is taken". You may have to work out who 'you' are. But once you have, communicate that consistently, coherently and with clarity. Works for life as well as business!

If any of this resonates with you, and you think I may be able to help your business communicate coherently, please drop me a line!

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?
@CoherentCreativ wrote:

So… Brand Authenticity… It’s one area where being a small business is a definite advantage over a huge monolithic one. The phrase “small enough to care, big enough to cope” springs to mind straight away!

 

Love this! I do believe that branding is something that many small businesses think is something only the "big guys" do.

 

@Thehvacguys@TimThePainter, both of you have small businesses (HVAC repair & installation and commercial & residential painting services, respectively) that rely on strong reputations for quality and reliability. Apart from word-of-mouth referrals, how do you establish that reputation while differentiating yourself from your competitors? How conscious are you of your "brand" in the local marketplace?

 

@Jennie, @cruberti, your businesses deal with sustainability and environmentally preferable materials. Do you think that businesses in this space face a special challenge in terms of brand authenticity? Many consumers aren't very clear on their "eco-terminology." Is it harder to stay on message with your specific business story when you have to provide some general education at the same time?

 

**@CoherentCreativI especially love your anecdotes about the pub and the Chinese restaurant. "This is my story and I'm sticking with it" may be a risky tactic if your story is not so warm and fuzzy, but people will respect you for it - and may even seek you out for novelty's sake. Have you ever had a client (large or small) that pursued this brand strategy? Do tell!

 

In January I traveled to Portland, OR, to meet with the rest of my team here at QB Community, and apparently the entire city is known for its rather abrupt service. I was actually disappointed when I left and no baristas had been actively rude to me Smiley LOL

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

Actually branding is something that has been my forte for as long as I can remember. For instance Imperial Coatings Unlimited in our facebook URL as well as a simple branding in the mind is ICU Painting. "I see you painting" as well as the distinguishable crown logo. Also one other branding option that I chose to stand out is most painters choose a white background or vehicle as Painters generally wear Painters Whites. However our vehicles as well as shirts are black with gold and purple accents. Branding is something that has always been a major issue with me and will always be. I highly recommend brand consciousness to any small business owner.

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

@TimThePainter that's fantastic, and so smart! If you haven't yet done so, you may want to check out "Why Your Small Business Can't Afford a $5 Logo," the Q&A I did with @CoherentCreativ a while back. In it, he talks a lot about why it's important to look at your branding efforts as an investment and an asset to your business, not an operating cost.

 

This is more of a tagline story than a logo story, but I used to live down the street from a hair salon with a picture of a lady sporting an old-fashioned beehive hairdo and the words, "If Your Hairstyle Isn't Becoming to You, You Should Be Coming to Us!" That was YEARS ago, and I still remember it. Powerful stuff!

 

It sounds like you put a lot of thought into the symbolism of your "ICU Painting" logo. Did you work with a designer? What was your process?

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Re: QUESTION: What Does "Brand Authenticity" Mean to You?

@Kjordan would love your take on this!