I’m kicking off 2018 with a single word: authentic.
Authenticity is an important thing. It’s required when you are building a brand, whether that’s a personal or a corporate one.
The word “authentic” is defined as “of undisputed origin, genuine.” Being authentic about who and what you are is important, but it’s not easy. You can wake up in the morning feeling as though you know who you are, but as you progress through your day you are inevitably influenced by the people around you and what you think are their perceptions of you.
That’s why so many people fall short of being authentic. They put on airs and pretend to be something other than who they are, becoming fake, plasticized versions of themselves.
The same can happen to a brand. Brands are influenced by the world around them and by what people say about them. Read the social media footprint for your favorite brands and you will witness an array of perspectives that can influence the way others perceive that brand.
While marketers spend a lot of time, money and effort trying to shape the perception of their brand in the public eye, that perception can be dismantled quickly by a vocal minority speaking loudly about any unfortunate “disconnect.”
The trick to becoming authentic is to make sure the promise of what you are matches the experience. If you say you are honest as a person, be honest. Being honest is easy until a situation arises when your resolve is tested, Should you tell a white lie to save someone’s feelings, or should you be completely honest, knowing they will be upset with you?
The same issue can affect brands. If a brand says it’s customer-focused, then be customer-focused, even in the face of profit vs. brand promise. If your customers are unhappy, should you issue a full refund, knowing it will crush your profits this year, or should you choose to ignore the issue? Ignoring the issue will certainly result in a diminished view of your brand, but could save your numbers in the short term. The opposite may not happen if you issue refunds, but your brand may weather the storm. Which is the correct path?
Apple, as usual, is a great example of this conundrum. The company admitted recently to purposely diminishing battery life on older phones, but also attempted to make amends by dropping the price on replacement batteries. Apple admitted wrongdoing and moved on. Is that enough in the eyes of its most loyal customers? Possibly. Is it better than the alternative of ignoring the issue and moving on? Most certainly.
Nobody’s perfect, but you can be authentic, even in the face of being wrong, off or incorrect. The way you respond to challenges is indicative of who you are, both as a brand and as an individual.
Here’s to hoping that all of you have a truly authentic 2018 and are able to be the best versions of yourselves!