Authenticity is an overused term in the business world, for sure. The real meaning of authenticity is simpler than our leaders make it out to be—being authentic is being genuine. Although the definition is easy, the practice is not. Being authentic is terrifying—letting people see you for who you are. It opens you up to criticism and judgment. You might be called weird or left out. Think about what would happen if people (and brands) accepted their weirdness and embraced it.
Brand ambassadors talk about the importance of being unique, being authentic, and how their brands are so unlike anything that’s come before. Paradoxically, those same ambassadors position their authenticity as it relates to their competitors. Ironic, right?
Where does this paradox stem from?
Brands are created by people, and people have an innate need to belong. So, it’s no wonder that our brands attempt to belong as well. Many of us are socialized to fit in and be accepted, and to do that, we often times abandon our authentic selves. From a human perspective, it’s tough being authentic, and it’s sometimes lonely. This experience and need to fit in applies both to people and to brands. Now, we’re in a world of people who try to fit in, and many of those people are in marketing.
Inauthentic people cannot create “authentic” brands. It just doesn’t work. We get brands that try to cater to everyone, and as a result, they’re ineffective.
How do brands create their authentic story?
My advice to brands? Embrace your weird, whatever that might be. Your consumers will appreciate your point of view and your courage to stand out.
For brands already doing it, it might seem natural. Brands that embrace their weird, whatever that weirdness might be, are the iconic brands that survive time—Disney, Apple, Red Bull, Nike. We associate these brands with authenticity because they know what they stand for, and they understand their impact in the world. Authentic brands, like authentic people, make themselves vulnerable to criticism and failures every day, but they’re purpose is a guiding principle that carries them to success.