The Truth in Branding

Red seal of authenticityLast year, “authenticity” was widely touted as the new trend in branding. With all of the media clutter, companies were looking for ways to stand out. The idea of being true to who you are rather than who you think your audience wants you to be resonated and companies tried tapping into their roots to differentiate themselves.

Apple and Nike are famous “authentic” consumer brands. Scott Bedbury, former CMO of Nike, wrote in his excellent branding book, “New Brand World,” that the Nike brand is built on a “brand essence” of “Authentic Athletic Performance.” Brand essence is not an ad or website concept but a core idea to which an authentic brand must remain true wherever it is seen. When you think about Nike, every ad, product and store reflects that brand essence.

What makes a brand essence effective though is not only visual communications and messaging; it’s the people in the organization. If a brand is authentic, it touches the heart of the people in a company and they become evangelists with minimal effort. It’s like finding that perfect pair of jeans that just fit every time and don’t require you to let out the waist or shorten the inseam. When a brand is the product of too much analysis and not enough heart then people don’t know how to promote it and it becomes window dressing.