That’s a huge concept – one that my partners and I have been continually defining since we started Resound in 2009. When it comes to brands at least, I’ve noticed that five traits are typically present in brands that I (and the rest of the world), call remarkable.
They are: Purposeful, authentic, responsive, empowering, and transparent. Last week, we unpacked purposeful – now let’s tackle authentic.
Number 2: Authentic
Ok, I know this word gets thrown around a lot, but hear me out:
Authenticity flows naturally from the purpose: a truly purposeful brand must live what it preaches.
It’s way too easy to throw values on a poster or list them on your website. Remarkable brands work incredibly hard to instill their values into every action and decision of the business. From interior office design, to corporate strategy and vendor contracts, the purpose and values of the brand take center stage as the framework through which all decisions are made.
That’s when you know you’re being authentic: when the words you say and the actions you take reflect the exact same company DNA – both in the limelight and behind closed doors.
Here’s a challenge: do your employees know what it looks like to live out your brand purpose and values? Like, practically?
I mean day in and day out when deadlines are looming and customers are (God forbid) wrong? Are you demonstrating what “living the values” should look like for your customer support members in every chat box? How about your metric-driven engineers? Are you challenging them to find ways to achieve your purpose more effectively (and stay true to your values)?
This kind of values-first, purpose-driven approach produces a unique, passionate, and energetic culture. Think about the corporate cultures that have impressed you. Perhaps Southwest Airlines comes to mind. Or Zappos. Or maybe Home Depot. These cultures continue to impress not only because of rigorous training, but because that training is founded on values and purpose. And then that training produces values-centric thinking and interaction:
- between employees
- between staff and customers
- between the company and its vendors
- between the brand and the communities it serves
Your Authentic Tribe
This kind of rigorous authenticity produces all the hallmarks of a unique and compelling culture: language, rituals, artifacts, traditions…even style and aesthetics. Don’t be surprised when you see the logo or tagline of a truly authentic, purpose-driven brand in the back window of someone’s car. When we as humans find a common purpose amongst a community, we will naturally look for ways to express our belonging.
As a brand leader and creator, look for these things in your own brand community. Encourage them. Cheer them on. Gather others and collaborate. Don’t force them, but certainly inspire all of your brand’s stakeholders to live out the purpose with creativity and passion.
Stick to Your Guns…Even When It’s Not Popular
Of course there’s inherently a level of sacrifice that comes with authenticity. When you live by your purpose and values – like really live by them – you also die by them. That means sticking to your guns even when the going gets tough and it’s going to cost you something to be true to your beliefs. But this is where belief is truly tested and refined, right? If there’s no sacrifice, then it’s easy and anyone can do it.
When there are tough calls to make or pain to be endured, the brand becomes that much clearer, powerful, and believable. This is when customers, employees, vendors, and leadership become united around the cause and real momentum is generated.
So authenticity really matters. It’s not just a buzzword for marketing gurus. It’s really living out the brand every day, in both the mundane and the momentous decisions of running a business.
How do you live out your brand values? I’d love to swap stories.