Each New Year we start off with new resolutions.
Not just for ourselves. But for our businesses. We are determined to do better. To achieve better results. To build better and stronger brands.
But even just a few weeks after being back at work in the New Year, those resolutions can get lost. We get busy. We start firefighting. And we get stuck into the day-to-day again.
Sound familiar? You are not alone. But in much the same way as you would in your own personal life, it’s important to take the time out at the start of the year to think about your brand – what it is and where it should be in 2018. And the key thing we believe will make your brand stand out in 2018 is its authenticity.
The age of authenticity
The importance of authenticity in building trust and loyalty is nothing new. As the value of millennials grows and grows, the need for authenticity and real engagement beyond traditional advertising has become critical to success.
It’s the Tech companies that dominated the top 10 authentic brands in the Cohn & Wolfe Top 100 list for 2017 with Amazon claiming the top spot.
But despite its focus over the last few years, it is still the rare few that are doing it well. Why? The problem is you can’t claim to be authentic. You can only be authentic. Natural. Consistent. It’s not a word in a tagline. Or something you can add to your values. To be authentic is to be, in all things,
“True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character”
And if there isn’t complete clarity on what that personality, spirit or character of your brand is – authenticity is impossible to actually achieve. It’s something that every person, in every part of your organisation, needs to innately understand. Every encounter, experience and interaction has to feel consistently real and genuine. You can’t say who you are. You have to be who you are.
Any mixed or inconsistent messages about who you are, do more than just leave your audience confused about what you stand for. They can be brand damaging. Your brand maybe seen as fake. Untrustworthy. A people pleaser, that will say or do anything to make a sale.
How to be the real deal
To build an authentic brand, there are no quick fixes or shortcuts. You have to first understand what your brand is and what it stands for. There are three key areas of a brand essence wheel, which perfectly align with three things your audience are looking for from you – honesty, emotion and humanisation.
1. Be Honest
What does your brand stand for really? Be honest about its strengths and weaknesses. You can’t be all things to all people. What are you good at? What makes your product or service unique or better?
In a brand workshop, this is known as defining the ‘Brand Truths’. And it’s not just about what you think. You need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Think about it from different customer segment perspectives and empathise with them. Who really benefits from what you do and how do you provide the best solution for them?
This is about self-awareness. And honesty. Just accepting what your brand is and isn’t is the first step on a journey towards authenticity and defining your brand essence. But it doesn’t have to stop there…. Being honest can be a unique differentiator for your brand. In response to their customers desire to be treated with honesty and fairness with no hidden fees, Southwest launched their new ‘Transfarency’ promise. And then told the story of why it matters so much to them.
2. Be Emotional
Being emotional is scary. Your brand is brought to life by your staff, your employees. And as professionals we’re taught to leave emotion at the door, it has no place at work. But it does have a place. Adopting a corporate, emotionless tone will not connect with your audience. To connect you need to create your voice and express that emotion.
You need to look at what is referred to as the ‘Brand Effect’. How is, or should, your brand be making your customers feel or look? One of our favourite examples of this (warning – grab tissues) is this advert from a Thai Life Insurance advert, titled ‘unsung hero’.
3. Be Human
Think about your brand as a person. And be as clear on who that brand is, as you would if it were a friend or family member. Has anyone ever declared – ‘That is such a YOU thing to say!’ Or has a friend ever tagged you in social media post, because a meme or post is so YOU? That is the goal. That is the level of clarity and humanisation you want for your brand.
That it has such a distinct and clearly defined personality, that someone could read something standalone and think – that sounds like something your brand would say or do.
And that’s exactly the level General Electric have gotten to. If you haven’t checked out their Pinterest page before, it’s worth a visit. From boards like ‘Badass Machine’ and ‘Mind=blown’ to ‘Hey Girl’ memes, it’s a brand that’s humanising digital industrialisation.
4. Be Clear
And the final step is condescending all of that down into a clear statement of your Brand Essence. It’s not easy. How would you describe yourself in one sentence? But you need that clarity of purpose about what is unique about your brand at its core. What is the key thing it stands for? The key benefit for the user? That clarity, unities all elements – your brand truth, your brand effect and your brand personality in one clear statement about what you believe. Why you exist.
Just be consistently you
Once you have clarity on your brand – your personality, your character, your spirit – you need to ensure that absolutely everything reflects that. It’s a cross organisational mindset, that goes beyond communications and marketing departments.
People decide on who you are from more than your CV or your profile. You are everything people experience when they meet you, talk to you, hear about you from other people.
Similarly, your brand is not only what you say in a press release. Or show in an advertisement. Every interaction, business decision and experience need to be true to who your brand is.
Okay, so you might not be quite at the Amazon level just yet. But that is actually a huge advantage. Because the smaller your organisation is, the easier it is to ensure that each person and each experience of your brand is consistent. And if that isn’t the case for your brand today, make addressing this your most important priority in 2018. Because this is the key, the only way, you’ll be able to authentically make your brand and your communications stand out.
If you’re struggling to do this alone, give us a call. We’d be delighted to chat about how we can support you in really developing your brand.