1. Know yourself (Knowledge)
2. Live/be true to yourself (Authenticity)
3. Embody integrity (Consistency)
But focus on this simple framework, and you’ll have your best shot at driving more customer conversions, engagement, and brand loyalty.
Sound exciting? We think so, and it’s pretty simple too.
Knowledge: Know Thyself
Answering this requires identifying and understanding the unique combination of factors that make you, ‘you’.
What do you want?
What do you need?
What are your strengths, and shortcomings?
What are your core values, and beliefs?
What about philosophy, and mindset?
As a hiring manager might put it, “What sets YOU apart from all the others?”
Lacking this clear self-awareness and understanding, you’re left wandering, adrift. Unfocused, without a sturdy foundation of identity on which to build your future.
In a world where customers have developed a hyper-sensitive radar for bullshit and puffery, this bedrock of identity is more necessary than ever before.
Potential buyers and clients need to feel like they truly know your brand—and believe in it—before they invest their trust, attention, and money. They want to know, ‘What is your brand all about?’ and businesses who fail to provide a clear, compelling, and well-differentiated answer get lost, and left behind. On to the next, says the savvy shopper.
“Makes sense, but how do I do this?”
To truly know your brand, the first step would be a brand discovery exercise (ideally, with the help of a branding expert). This will help you identify your USP’s, your true value proposition, the end-benefit to consumers, and who exactly those consumers are. Getting an experienced branding strategist on board will help you avoid some of these common branding pitfalls:
What you sell
vs. who you are
Many brands assume that ‘what they do’ or what they offer (rational benefits of their brand) is equal to ‘who they are’ (their brand identity). Not true.
To illustrate, if you make shoes, what sets you apart from the competition isn’t just cool footwear—No matter how many celebrities endorse it, or how many jugs of holy water it contains. Instead, it’s everything that goes into creating and defining the end result; including your values, your approach, your process, your team, and more.
Jumping on the
Many brands internalize an identity they believe will serve them best. Often unknowingly, but sometimes on purpose (think: spammers, copycats, etc.). They do this by appropriating popular values and/or cultural themes that reflect the current environment, or sound good on paper.
For example, a brand may think of itself as cutting edge and innovative, while in reality it’s more established and traditional. Picture a chocolatier following a recipe handed down through generations. They may feel like a flashy image is the only way to compete, but attributes of tradition and experience may in fact be their true USP, and the reason why customers return.
Once you have captured and crystallized your brand’s identity (we call this your Foundational Messaging Brief) you can move on to the next building block of success—authenticity.
For a truly fulfilling life, we aim for total synchronicity between our truest self, our words, and our actions. Congruence between inside and out; inward and outward, acting in concert.
Think about it… Who do you trust? Who do you support, and love, even? It’s the people whose actions and behavior align with their words. It’s the authenticity that we can sense and feel in our bones: When it’s there, we know it. And a faker? They reek. Right?
And so, if you claim to be a vegan influencer, and you’re caught chowing flesh, you’ll have some serious explaining (and apologizing) to do, and a lot of trust to rebuild. Remember: Image is not identity, and identity only serves if it’s true and authentic.
What’s true for people goes for brands, too: consumers only trust brands that live up to their promises, and do what they say. Today’s discerning consumer has a low tolerance for hypocrisy, and here’s more proof: According to this survey, 86% of people say that authenticity is important while deciding what brands they will like and support.
“So how can I create a truly authentic brand?”
Assuming you’ve already completed step one (knowing yourself: brand identity), here are a few tips to consider:
- Ensure alignment across identity and action:
Make sure your business objectives, marketing strategies, and branding and messaging across channels all align with your brand identity. Remember to examine and update both your verbal and visual language.
- Check in with customers, often:
Conduct surveys and feedback sessions to ensure consistency between who you really are, how you’re portraying your brand, and how customers are experiencing it.
- Own your mistakes:
Everyone messes up, but consumers are quick to forgive brands that accept their mistake and make amends. In short, don’t fly into controversy like United Airlines, crashing $800 million in value.
- Remember, every trend is not your friend:
Often in a hurry to be part of the latest viral conversation, brands stray away from their core identity… Remember how we spoke about jumping on the ‘brand-wagon’, without a clear understanding of self? Be sure to evaluate trends carefully, and make sure they are a meaningful extension of your brand, if you do decide to get onboard.
- Infuse purpose-driven branding with authenticity:
Your brand should be driven by a purpose larger than the self. But this too must be shot through with authenticity. Successful businesses join hands with customers to fulfill shared missions and goals, but with full transparency and good faith.
Consistency: The snowball effect
You’ve taken a close look within, chipping away to reveal your true self. You’re living true to this authentic identity… What next?
How do you build on this hard work to drive further growth, and success?
Aristotle offered invaluable advice when he said,
In other words: Success comes with consistency.
Consistency is key to creating a positive snowball effect: Small steps taken each day, like building blocks toward the larger goal. Aligned with our values and goals, these steps reinforce our identity, amplify our strengths, and convey our integrity.
Consistency, then, is the third crucial pillar of success, and growth: in life, in sports, and in business.
Three Tips To Ensuring Consistency
- Develop brand guidelines
This will ensure consistent verbal and visual messaging across platforms, across departments, and across time
Enforce a robust system of checks and approvals
Consider having a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to make sure every piece of communication is in line with your brand personality, values, and tone, before it goes live. Checklists are great for this purpose
Conduct regular ‘brand refresher sessions’ for your team
Your people must represent the essence your brand—ensure they are aligned to your brand values and mission, and are always speaking the same language.
We know it works—we’ve developed and applied it over the last few decades, helping countless clients develop memorable, successful brands.
Keen to learn more? We’re just a click away!
And if you’re not quite sure what kind of help you might need, try this 20-second questionnaire.
1 Actually, this is a helpful translation of Aristotelian thought by the author Will Durant, but the sentiment remains accurate, and useful.