It’s quite ironic really. As more and more brands scuttle around posting pages of values tocommunicate their brand authenticity, which often stems from very little more than a Google search, the very authenticity they are hoping to portray is lost in the process.
The most accurate comparison of a brand is a person. Because the relationships we have with brands today are akin to the relationships we have with people, relating characteristics of a brand with the characteristics of a person makes sense.
In fact, it is the brand’s adoption of human-like characteristics in order for us to see them as people, that has advanced the relationship to a more human setting. When we personify brands and think of them as a person with a soul, we can then start to relate and identify true brand authenticity with ease.
When we meet a truly authentic person, we just know that person is authentic to their core. It’s a feeling we have in our gut that’s primitive in nature but amazingly accurate. That feeling is usually a result of their actions and personality stemming from their values and principles.
Through observing their personality and actions we get a feeling for what is important to them, what their principles are and the values they have. When we feel that their actions, personality, behaviour, values and principles all align, we get a true sense of authenticity.
As we are able to accurately compare brands and people today due to our relationships, it becomes clear how easily that translates across. It is a brand’s actions and personality that tells us what they think they are, but it is when we see an alignment of their actions with their values, do we feel an authentic connection.
So how does a brand portray Authenticity?
Well, they don’t portray anything. The very definition of “portray” is to make a likeness of something. An authentic brand does not make a likeness of anything.
It makes decisions and takes action with the purpose as a driver and values as the moral compass for everything they do. In following their purpose and values day-by-day through their actions, authenticity is a by-product that doesn’t go unnoticed.
How can a brand monitor Authenticity?
Of course, you can test the market and keep an eye on who is saying what with the many tools available though that’s micro-managing a process that thrives with autonomy.
Big brands have many moving parts and individuals each with their own values, principles and personalities. Ensuring the values of your personnel align with those of the brand is one way to keep that in check. The real value, however, is in the question of “How can a brand be authentic?”
How can a brand be Authentic?
The answer is in the question. Anything in the realm of authenticity comes back to purpose and values. When it comes to demonstrating the brand purpose and values the leadership team must be the champions. In championing and communicating and demonstrating them consistently, it is adopted throughout.
In using the purpose as a driver and values as a compass, the leadership can make decisions that demonstrate that they are not just a slogan or a tagline with no substance; they are authentic to the core. Only with the consistent application over time will these values be adopted throughout at which point, they become a moral compass for all throughout the brand and thus the brand itself.
People buy into the “Why”
When a brand allows the purpose to be the driver and the values to be the compass of all decisions and actions within the business, the day-to-day actions and interactions of the brand demonstrate authenticity.
Consumers today have had a gutful of brands and marketing messages. When a brand acts with integrity through their purpose and values, their audience is the beneficiary. When they feel the benefit, they also feel the connection with the origins of those actions.
As Simon Sinek said in his Ted Talk:
People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.
We are drawn to leaders and organisations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.
For values or guiding principles to be truly effective, they have to be verbs. It’s not “integrity,” it’s “always do the right thing.” It’s not “innovation,” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.” Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea – we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation.
Whether a person or a brand, it is in the alignment of one’s actions and values that true authenticity lives. When an audience feels an authentic connection to a brand, they don’t need to be sold on the “what” or the “how”, they’re already in on the “why”.
Stephen is a passionate Brand Creator and Founder of Iconic Fox Brand Agency. With a background in both financial markets and design, he is well positioned on brand strategy and creative and is passionate about both. Stephen has been featured on Marketo, Hubspot, Inside Small Business, Creative Bloq and more for his expertise on brand strategy and creative.
He’s also a friendly chap so if there’s something you want to know about brand, he’d be happy to get into it with you