If you follow us on Facebook, you may recall that we recently shared a post from Seth Godin’s blog where he defines authenticity as “consistent emotional labor.” Seth’s definition resonated with us, particularly as it can be applied to a company’s brand. An authentic brand is one that is consistent, both in words (their brand promise) and deeds (their business practices).
Authenticity: When the Talk Matches the Walk
This consistency isn’t always easy to achieve, but it is quite possibly the most important marketing strategy you can follow. It’s tempting to set the bar too high with your marketing—to promote the company you want to be rather than the company you are. But when you make brand promises you can’t keep, you’re setting yourself up for failure. As the saying goes, “don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk.” Because once you’ve developed a reputation for not meeting customer expectations, it’s hard—if not impossible—to undo that damage.
When we start a branding project, we interview internal and external stakeholders to develop an understanding of their perceptions of the company. We use that insight to develop core messaging that ensures the talk matches the walk (i.e., is realistic and reflective of the company’s business practices). It’s much easier to do that than to change business practices to match your messaging. Consistency and authenticity are by-products of this talk/walk alignment, as being able to tell a true brand story makes it less tempting to embellish or go off-script.
Authentic Doesn’t Mean Perfect
If you’re worried that your brand doesn’t have a good story to tell, don’t be. Imperfections can be part of an authentic brand promise, too. Acknowledging and addressing the flaws in your company’s business practices humanizes your brand. And since your customers are human, showcasing this humanity can be a powerful way of forging a connection with them. And if your customers see (through your consistent messaging and actions) that you are actively working on improving your flaws…well, even Hollywood couldn’t write a better ending to that brand story.