It’s time to get real (with your branding)

By Lynn Manternach | Guest Column

There’s a lot of buzz these days about brand authenticity. But what makes a brand authentic?

Brand authenticity is hard to define, but you know it when you feel it. When you trust a brand and consistently choose it over other options, that is the result of brand authenticity.

Authenticity never has been more important. In a 2019 study conducted by Stackla that included more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, 90 percent said authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support.

So what is authenticity? Honesty? Transparency? Integrity? Yes. All of that – and more.

Brand authenticity is about an organization’s core values, and the degree to which a company internalizes those values and integrates them into its mission, vision and daily operations.

Brand authenticity isn’t a complex idea. However, creating an identity that’s genuine and authentic is not simple. An authentic brand is built over time with hard work and patience. It involves understanding what your brand stands for and why it exists. An authentic brand understands and cares about what aspects of the brand matter most to its target market.

To get to the core of your brand, you need to pay attention to both sides of the equation. What is the heart and soul of your brand – who are you? And what do your targeted consumers want, need and expect from you?

Be real. All brands start on the inside, so what’s inside your brand? Who are you? What drives your company? What’s your purpose? What do you stand for?

Being real means you need a clear understanding of your brand and how and why your brand matters to your consumers. If you’re serious about building an authentic brand, start with research.

Your brand isn’t what you say it is — it’s what consumers say it is. So ask them. Find out how your company is perceived, what consumers see as your strengths and weaknesses, and how they describe the brand experience. Ask them what they like best about interacting with your product or service, and how the experience could be improved.

Talk to your employees. They are a critical part of the brand and the customer experience. Do they understand the expectations for a good customer experience? Do they understand their role in delivering that brand experience? Do they have the information they need from the organization to exceed expectations?

Make a promise. Does your organization have a brand promise? Your promise outlines the compelling reason a consumer should choose your brand. It should describe the experience you deliver. It helps your organization focus on what the consumer needs, and how your organization is positioned to consistently deliver on the brand promise. Ultimately, a brand promise is a way for consumers to hold you accountable to the standard that sets you apart.

Keep your promise. Once you understand your brand and what people need and expect from you, deliver on your promises. It’s an important differentiator. You can stand out to consumers if what you say in your advertising and marketing aligns authentically with the experience your brand delivers.

An authentic brand is no longer a choice for companies who want to get ahead of the competition. Your customers are talking about you on social media, so you have nowhere to hide. If you’re not authentic, you won’t last. The good news is that being authentic is beneficial for your business as well as for the people you serve. So get real.  •

Lynn Manternach is a brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc., located in Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. Contact her at