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Hi and welcome to episode 31 of Startup Marketing. Today we’re going to be talking about why being authentic in your branding and marketing is important. Now, as the owner of a business called “Authentic Branding and Marketing”, I obviously have a very strong opinion about this topic. And, it isn’t just about saying you should be authentic, for me, it’s fused into the core of my branding and marketing philosophies. Let me tell you why. Let’s dive in. 

First, let’s start with authentic branding. Being authentic is simply being true to who you are, what you do and who you serve. I am a firm believer that a brand is the cornerstone of any successful business. Without a strong brand, all of your other operations: sales, finance, HR, inventory, aren’t successful. Without a strong brand, each of those areas will develop their own guiding principles and act on them as they see fit; leading to a disjointed and incohesive feeling for your business. You literally can’t have a strong brand if every area of your business isn’t all working to project the same emotion, aesthetic and executing the from the same strategy playbook. 

On the surface, it might sound really obvious to say “your brand should be authentic”. Nobody’s going to object to that until it comes time to actually create the brand or execute against it. Here’s an example. When I worked in financial marketing at my corporate job, we always had this conversation when it came to the type of photography that represented our organization. When we’d brainstorm campaigns, we were all responsible for bringing images we liked that inspired our creative ideas. Before we identified what our brand was, we were often bringing pictures to the table where someone was getting their new debit card in the mail and upon opening it, jumped up and pumped their arms in elation with a smile, and what looks like, a small scream of excitement. One day, I was looking at all of the pictures that my team and I had brought to our brainstorming session and I was like “guys, nobody gets that excited about a debit card. Using this picture doesn’t feel genuine or authentic”. Because it’s true, right. I could send a bunch of postcards with someone shouting and jumping with elation that their new debit card has arrived, but is that actually relatable. Is that actually how it happens in real life? No! I don’t know how it goes in your household, but when my husband and I get new debit or credit cards in the mail, we open the envelope, pull it out and apathetically say to the other person “your new debit cards here” as we toss it on the kitchen counter where it inevitably sits for a few more days before being put in a wallet. So, when I use that elated photo in my marketing as a financial, does it resonate with my audience? Do people go, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely how I feel when I get my new card in the mail”. Probably not. 

So, while I’m using an image to make my point here, the overall message is the same. If I approach the foundation of my brand, it’s tone of voice, its personality, messaging, imagery, and any other part of the brand inauthentically, it shows. People see through it immediately. Just like they see through the picture of someone jumping up and down because their new debit card arrived. Now, you could argue that that’s fine. While the picture doesn’t represent real life, it also isn’t doing any damage. At best, it’s kind of leaving you at net zero, right. Like, people don’t hate it, but it doesn’t make you memorable. And, I suppose that’s true, but I’d submit that brands that aren’t memorable aren’t strong brands either. 

 So, approaching your brand with authenticity means that it will resonate with your ideal customers and, perhaps just as importantly, with you. Plus, a brand that’s authentic will be a natural guide for every other facet of your business. Remember, your brand is the measure by which you make all other decisions in your company. If it’s not authentic, what chance do you have of creating a company that feels authentic and lives up to your brand vision?

Ok, so next ,let’s dive into the marketing aspect of being authentic. Keep in mind, you can only be authentic in your marketing if you’ve got an authentic brand. So, don’t think that you can take any shortcuts in these areas. In today’s digital world, potential customers can spot a phony brand and inauthentic marketing a mile away. And, they aren’t afraid to call you out about it. The worst case scenario is making a public blunder by being inauthentic. The best case scenario, much like I outlined with the brand example above, is that you leave potential customers feeling neutral toward your brand. 

In marketing being authentic translates to being honest and transparent. This may sound counterintuitive to you when it comes to marketing because often, people substitute advertising for marketing, when really, advertising is a subset of marketing and they don’t always associate the best reputation with advertising. But, trust me, authenticity is critical to successful marketing and advertising. For now, when I say marketing, I also mean advertising. Today, more than ever, consumers want brands that have a social purpose. They’re concerned about the impact a brand has and want to see them helping to create a better community. That’s why it’s critical to be honest and transparent in your advertising. Aside from the fact that there are literally laws that protect consumers when it comes to marketing and advertising from tactics like bait and switch techniques, the reality is, a brand that chooses to market themselves inauthentically isn’t going to survive. Today’s consumers are tech savvy and have far more authority than in the past. They aren’t afraid to interact with brands and to call out inauthentic marketing. But, as Neil Patel points out on this topic, being authentic doesn’t mean that it’s you vs. consumers, authenticity is something that benefits both you and your business. 

When you’re authentic, you’re going to:

  • Inspire the right people at the right time
  • Build your credibility and authority within your industry
  • Be relatable to your ideal customers
  • Build trust
  • And encourage engagement. 

When it comes to marketing your business, being authentic looks like this:

  1. Having ads that look and sound on brand for you. *Hint* this is where your brand standards will save you time and energy. When your brands look and sound like YOU, you’re building htat trust and authority your business needs to grow and become more profitable. 
  2. Looking for partnerships that feel natural and on brand: when you’re looking to partner with other brands and businesses, or you’re attending events, make sure that you’re looking for partnerships that make sense. For example, if I’m a daycare center that’s looking to enroll more kids, I don’t want to sign up to host a booth at a fitness expo. I’m going to be looking for family-oriented events where I can get in front of young families who could use my services. 
  3. Having branding strategies that tie your product or service to your branding activities. When I worked at the financial institution, our brand strategy was to be the leader in financial education within our community. We did this by bringing financial education programs to every level of our community: high school and college students, single moms, children leaving the foster care system, and adults who were seeking additional information about how to make better financial decisions. To use Authentic (my company) as an example, a brand strategy that would feel authentic and genuine would be if I partnered with a local organization that mentored young women who were just beginning their careers by donating some of my time to help with their marketing efforts. Brand outreach makes the most sense and feels the most authentic when it naturally ties in to what you do and who you serve. 
  4. Being consistent. Again, this is something that having a brand standards book will help you do. When you have standards you can follow, messages you can pull off the shelf and use at a moment’s notice that are on brand, you’ll appear consistent to your ideal customers. And that makes your branding and marketing feel authentic. 
  5. Showcasing your personality. Nobody wants to interact with a brand that feels cold or stale. Showcase who you are and why you love what you do. 
  6. Sharing things of value. In today’s digital world, being on social media can feel like screaming into the abyss sometimes. Don’t be the kind of brand that creates marketing materials that add to the noise and the clutter. Add value to the lives of your potential customers and you’ll gain their respect because it feels natural and authentic. 
  7. Designing your marketing materials. Again with the brand standards! But, now you should see why they’re so important. When it comes to designing materials for your business, if they aren’t consistent and don’t look like they’re on-brand, you don’t feel authentic. This means choosing fonts, colors, and images that are relatable and saying things in a way that feels relatable. 
  8. And finally, being authentic in marketing means knowing your ideal customer, their wants, their needs and where they spend their time. Finding them in a space that naturally aligns with their interests and the value you bring to their lives will increase your authority, position you as an expert and leave them feeling good about their interaction with you. 

By now you can see that showing up authentically in your branding and your marketing is extremely important. But, how do you ensure you’re authentic?

First, start by getting a brand standards book in place. You can do this by working with me to create your brand and document it, or, if you’ve already got a brand, but you need to document it better, you can purchase my brand standards template that walks you through the process of creating a brand standards guide. It’s available on my website for $97 as an editable Canva link. This is something that businesses often pay over $1500 for and I’m excited to make my exact template that I used to build my authentic brand to you at a much more affordable price point. Plus, use the code Startup Marketing for an extra 10% off. However you create your brand standards guide, get it going. You can’t have authentic marketing if you don’t know what principles and philosophies you’re staying true to as a brand. 

Next, make sure you have a marketing strategy in place and you know how your brand will appear in each channel of that strategy. Again, it’s hard to be consistent and add value to your ideal customer if you’re not sure how or where you’re going to be in front of them. This also means you should know who your ideal customer is and how to best reach them. 

And finally, interact respectfully and in ways that add value to your ideal customers’ lives. There’s plenty of room for everyone; offer advice or give assistance where it’s appropriate. Take people behind the scenes, share your wisdom. Everyone benefits when brands and businesses focus on community over competition. 

So, there you have it. The ins and outs of having authentic branding and marketing. As you can see, there’s a science to having an authentic brand and creating authentic marketing. That’s why I’m so passionate about this topic and ultimately why I chose the name “Authentic Branding & Marketing” for my business. For me, being authentic is synonymous with branding and marketing. I honestly don’t know how to properly brand or market a business if it’s not in the most authentic form possible. 

I’ve turned today’s episode into a mini guide that you can find on my website in my marketing resource library at: getauthenticbranding.com/resources. The Authentic Branding & Marketing resource library has over $500 in marketing guides and checklists and is updated weekly along with this podcast to ensure you can take measurable and actionable steps toward branding and marketing your business for growth. It’s only $27, but Startup Marketing listeners can use the code SM20 to get a 10% discount.

And, as always, if you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, please rate, review and subscribe to Startup Marketing to help other women like you find this podcast.

Until next time!