When most people hear the word “authentic”, they think of honesty – something genuine and real. And while honesty is important in your business branding, authenticity should also mean unique. Your brand represents you. It speaks to what your company stands for in the marketplace. Your brand offers (or should offer) something that no other brand can. This is where mistakes can be made – in the very beginning of your company’s life. Once your brand is out there for all the world to see, it is very difficult to undo. Let’s examine what an authentic brand looks like, and how you can build one that sets you apart from your competitors.
In my book, “Authentic Branding”, one of the first topics I cover is what a brand image is not. A brand image is not your logo, corporate identity, marketing, advertising/graphic design, your company, product or service, or a name on a label. A great brand image elicits an emotion from potential customers. Your brand should resonate with your target clients on a personal level. Because it would be nearly impossible to count on the same emotional response from everyone, it’s important to know who your customers are. Are you looking for corporate business? Maybe your market is blue collar. Are you looking to connect with Generation X? Generation Z? Once you connect with the people who will be buying your brand, and the experiences they may be looking for, you can build a brand that connects with them.
It is also important to foresee the obstacles you might encounter in your market. Knowing your competition, and understanding the current trends, will help you to overcome anything that might impede sales growth. In my book, I also talk about auditing your brand. By going through the auditing checklist, you will get a wider view of where your brand might need reworking. If your brand doesn’t pass the checklist, it’s time to rebrand. Ask yourself the following questions:
• Does your brand convey instantly your unique purchase proposition?
• Is your unique purchase proposition viable and thrive-able in the
current market climate?
• How deep and how broad is your brand awareness? Does your
brand inspire instant recall and recognition in the customer’s mind?
• Are all your touch-points integrated? Compelling? Authentic?
• Have you identified the market obstacles that are impeding your
growth. Have you got an action plan to remove those obstacles?
• Is your brand returning a satisfactory profit?
• Does it continue to build value and equity?
In the event that you wish to someday sell your company, brand authenticity will be paramount in making it more attractive to buyers as well as their potential customers. Big companies can be virtual gold mines for savvy entrepreneurs. Do you remember GrooveBook? They appeared on “Shark Tank” in 2012 and, by 2014, GrooveBook sold their company to Shutterfly (which is traded on the public market) for $14.5 million. GrooveBook had an authentic brand with loyal and excited customers which made them extremely attractive to Shutterfly. In this example, branding went far beyond simply selling a product and acquiring customers. Its vision was expansive. Think big even when you’re not yet!
In our technological era, there is even more competition than ever. But, this also means that there is even more potential for growth than ever. Having a great logo and product is a good thing and an important part of your branding. But, without your customers and clients, it means nothing. Know your demographic, know your market and, most importantly, know your brand! You hold the keys to your own success. Align yourself with associates and consultants who can see your company objectively and “police” your product so that you stay true to what your company stands for and ensure success, longevity, and growth.