Some of the most beloved brands have a reputation in terms of the characteristics associated with them. This “personality” is what enables them to connect emotionally with customers. Like personal relationships, there are some brands that people love; some that they love to hate; or some they may feel indifferent toward. The most important quality that a brand possesses is its authenticity.
To be authentic, brands must say what they do, and then do what they say.
A brand is a promise to deliver value that is meaningful for the consumer. Pricing, product quality, and how it is promoted are all core values that must be consistent with customer perception. In order to be authentic, a brand must remain true to itself and to the promises it makes with customers.
Brands that promise exclusivity and limited availability (and thus a premium price) cannot be sold at a mass-market, volume discount retailer for a lower price. Likewise, product quality must be consistent with its pricing—shoddy materials or service will destroy the perceived value of the brand. With so many choices, customers very rarely give products a second chance, so make sure that your brand is of superior quality.
Promoting your brand is very important to delivering an authentic experience for customers. Employees are often the first touch-point that customers will have with a product or service. As brand ambassadors, their actions (good or bad) can impact a brand’s perception. If they don’t believe in and act out the values of the brand, the brand loses relevance. For example, if an employee’s personality is such that they seem arrogant or ignorant, that attitude will turn away customers who feel the product or service no longer cares about their needs.
Dave Ramsey, the founder of Financial Peace Plaza, is a great example of an authentic brand. His organization is driven to help people pay off their consumer debt, save money and work toward achieving wealth. He offers a common-sense approach and lives the brand: everything from his casual wardrobe to his mannerisms and likability makes him very approachable and “real.” At a recent live event, however, I began to question his authenticity because of the incessant sales pitches to buy more “products” on how to manage money (thus going against his own teachings of “saving more and spending less”). Further complicating these mixed emotions was the fact that his 22-year-old daughter (who represents the brand to the youth market) was there, dressed in fancy clothes and flashing an expensive gold watch and huge diamond ring.
In summary, the best way to build an authentic brand is to do what you say and say what you mean. Avoid contradictions in terms of pricing, product quality and/or service, and how it is promoted. Remember what makes your brand relevant to customers, and then deliver on that promise. Nothing will destroy your brand quicker than losing its authenticity.
By: Ryan Hembree, Principal of Brand and Creative Strategy, Indicia