Authenticity is all the rage right now, but it’s an age-old concept. There has never been a time in history when people willingly did business with people they felt they couldn’t trust. But in this age of deep fakes, fake news and countless advertisements promising the moon, authenticity is key. Customers need to believe that you are who you say you are, that you’ll act how you say you’ll act and that your goods are exactly what you say they are. In other words, they need to believe you’re telling the truth about yourself. So how do you discover the truth about yourself and share that truth in compelling but honest ways? Let’s explore.
Who Are You Really?
The first step toward cultivating authenticity in your brand is to get honest about who you are today. Of course you have goals to become something else one day, and that’s good, but customers don’t care about who you want to be. They aren’t doing business with future you — they’re doing business with current you. So how do you determine who you are right now? You might not like the answer.
You discover the truth of who you are by looking objectively at your decisions and your actions. The thing that separates your actual brand from your vision of your brand is a little thing we call reality. What decisions are you making today that are in conflict with your brand? What does the design of your brand claim about you that you aren’t living up to? What does your copy claim about you that simply doesn’t correspond with reality?
Often people build their brand based on who they’d like to be. Unfortunately, when they do that, they set themselves up for failure. Their design and copy will attract customers who want to work with this future brand and they will feel deceived when they get you as you really are. And that’s a bummer. Your brand should attract the kind of customers who would be delighted to work with you as you are now.
Your current strengths, weaknesses, products, values and practices may not be what you hope they will be one day, but the only way to grow into your vision is to grow from where you are.
Find Freedom in Authenticity
Pretending to be someone you are not is as exhausting as it is dishonest. At Resound, we have a belief that each person — and therefore each brand — is remarkable. We don’t mean that every person or brand is good. What we mean is that each person and brand has something worthy of remarking about. In most cases, these are good qualities which add value to the world and to our lives. Of course, some people and brands are remarkably evil, but we’ll leave those to the side for now.
If every person or brand is remarkable, that means that right now, you and your brand are remarkable. There are things that are unique to you, informed by your story, your experiences and your decisions along the way that make you remarkable. Focusing in on those things in an honest way is the key to becoming an authentic brand.
If there are things about you which truly are remarkable — and there are — then there is no reason to exhaust yourself pretending to be someone you are not. You’re turning away potential customers and damaging your public image by trying.
By focusing on those things which are true of you today, you are free to conduct business in ways that are natural to you. By ensuring your brand celebrates what makes you remarkable today, you position yourself to grow. Customers will be drawn to the real you. Their expectations will be met or exceeded and they will be able to trust you. As you grow, you’ll begin to exceed expectations and the value of your brand will increase. Eventually you’ll need to rebrand to let the world know you’re even more remarkable than before — but that’s a good problem to have, right?
Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty
So what does it look like for someone to objectively nail down who they are today? When we do brand workshops — which are very practical —we attempt to discover the truth about the organization. We don’t want to know just what the organization says about itself or what it wants to be, but we push to identify what it is today. Then we find out what that means in terms of its values, personality traits and brand story.
Next, we begin developing verbal guidelines that allow us to speak in a way that reflects those personality traits and that brand story. How does your brand communicate? What kinds of tones does it have? Does it take itself seriously, or is it a little more light-hearted? These kinds of questions inform your brand’s copy.
Then we create visual guidelines which help you look the part. What colors embody your personality? What fonts express your perspectives and intent? What styles speak to the mood of your brand? These questions help shape everything from your business cards to your website.
We truly believe that every brand is remarkable and that authentic branding is essential to growing in a world full of fakes and embellishments. We’ve devoted ourselves to helping brands discover who they are and then helping them share that with the world. We’ve developed tools and resources to help brands along this process at every stage. Recently, we’ve begun the journey of writing a book about our perspective on branding. If you found this content helpful or thought-provoking, consider signing up for our book email list to get updates about the book, and receive exclusive behind-the-scenes content as we write it.