“Authenticity” is a word hotter than those pesto potatoes you just took out of the oven. To be authentic is to be your true self. How do we do that? By letting what is showing externally reflect what is felt internally.
But what do brand designers mean when they tell you you need your brand to be authentic? What does authentic branding actually mean and how do we create a truly authentic brand, without our logo looking like a 5-year-old was having too much fun with playdough?
In today’s blog, we are going deep-sea diving into the concept of brand authenticity, why it’s important for your purpose-drive, health and wellness business, and how you can make it happen by following some simple rules.
So, grab your tuba and goggles, we are about to go exploring!
A quick Google search of the word “authentic” comes back with the following results: real, genuine, original, and true.
Now, if we were to bring this definition into the world of branding, we’d have a branding that reflects your brand story, aligns with your brand voice, and attracts the ideal audience.
Brand authenticity, in simple terms, just means branding that looks and feels right. It depicts your brand in an honest way and helps your audience get to know the real you from the first glance.
If you have a small business, you might often feel yourself wanting to “fit in” or follow the steps of a bigger brand you’ve always admired. However, this takes away from your authenticity. Instead, you need to express yourself in your own unique way.
So, it should be easy enough, right? Just “be yourself” and you’ve got yourself an authentic brand! But the reality is much more complicated than that. It can be very difficult to show your authenticity in your brand without looking messy, confusing, and complex.
As a brand designer, I have a thoughtful process I use when creating authentic visual branding for my clients. My process helps me work with health and wellness businesses strategically so that we are looking at the three key parts of branding to make the results truly authentic and attractive.
Let’s have a look at it next!
If you want to delve deeper into the whole concept of brand authenticity, you’ll see that an authentic brand reflects a combination of you, as a purpose-driven, health & wellness business owner, your business, and your audience.
Authentic Branding = You + Your Business + Your Audience
Let’s break this formula down into its three key parts: You, your business, and your audience.
Part one of the equation is, simply, you. But when I say “you”, I mean who you are as a business. This includes your business personality, your brand voice, and your core values.
If you are wondering how to show your authenticity through your personality, it’s actually easier than you think. You just have to show that your business operates like a real person. If it's a personal brand, your business is a reflection of you. On the other hand, if you have a business brand, develop a human-like personality for your business.
Here’s another secret: The fastest way to kill brand authenticity is being overly polished and perfect!
Nobody is perfect - your audience knows that. And if you present yourself online as having figured everything out, you become unrelatable and feel fake.
So, tell your audience your unique story, including your struggles, your learnings, and your transformations. Tell them what you believe in and why you chose to make your business about helping them, specifically.
You might not be completely comfortable with it at the beginning. But over time and practice, you’ll get better at exposing yourself and enjoy a strong connection with your audience.
We all connect through our personalities. Infuse your visual branding and messaging with the characteristics that your audience will be attracted to. Be the best friend your audience meets up with on a Friday night at your favorite pub - they just know you get them and they can relax around you!
Part two is your business. More specifically, think about what your business does, what problems it seeks to solve, and what its mission and vision are.
Some brand experts refer to this part of the equation as the internal brand, the foundation of your branding. If you don’t have a solid internal brand, the cracks will start showing in your business and in your marketing. For instance, an authentic brand reflects your mission and vision clearly.
Think about the brands that you consider the most authentic. Let’s take an example: Dove.
For years Dove’s mission statement has been “to ensure the next generation grows up enjoying a positive relationship with the way they look – helping girls to raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential.” Their vision is a world where “beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.”
This mission and vision have guided Dove’s branding strategy and created viral campaigns such as the “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” and “Free Being Me”, breaking every stereotype of how women are represented in the world of beauty. Did Dove succeed in creating an authentic brand? Our verdict is yes!
So, take a long minute and sit down with your team to discuss your business and what it's all about. Develop a strong brand strategy and document everything in your business plan. The clearer things are, the easier it will be for you to create your authentic visual branding.
Remember, authenticity is all about being true to your brand. How will you do that if you are still confused about who you are, how you do business, and what your goals are?
For instance, do you believe in fairtrade or using sustainable materials only? Are you passionate about helping a certain charity or foundation? Do you focus on employing apprentices to train and empower the next generation?
All these details make up your business and are what differentiates you from your competitors.
The first thought that crosses your audience’s mind when they see your brand is “what is in it for me?”.
If your audience does not feel that developing a relationship with you will benefit them, they will walk away without giving your products or services a second thought, no matter how great they are! So, think about your current visual branding - does it instantly connect with your ideal customer and let them know that they will find what they are looking for?
The last part of developing brand authenticity is, therefore, making sure that your authenticity is connecting with your ideal customer. By now, you already have a solid idea of who you are and what you do. Now, it’s time to explore who you serve and why they should choose you.
First, observe your audience carefully. Pay attention to their and psychographics. How does your audience feel? What do they value and believe in?
An authentic brand that can instantly connect with its audience based on these unique psychographics.
Once you know who your audience is, you can communicate with them with empathy, connecting with their hearts and showing them how your offer will genuinely help them.
When you are clear on these 3 parts of your branding (you, your business, and your audience), you will have a good understanding of what makes your brand authentic and unique.
And the easiest way to achieve this clarity is through mindful visual strategy work!
Imagine if you were crystal clear on what the essence of your brand is? Everything else just falls into place after that.
The reality is that your visual identity, like a logo, is not actually your brand. A logo is just one tiny piece of the branding puzzle - it is a recognizable element of your brand that people can recognize you with. When you are planning to create a full visual brand identity, you need to have a solid brand strategy that gives you all the information you need to succeed. It will inform everything else, from your brand guide to your website design and that's how you create a cohesive brand – from inside out!
A good brand strategy allows you to create brand authenticity.
And brand authenticity is a great way to stand out, connect with your audience, solve their problems in a creative way, and have an aligned brand that you can fully own!
But don’t worry too much, authentic branding does not have to be perfect from the first try. In fact, part of being authentic is showing that you are trying and doing your best for your clients, customers, employees, and other stakeholders.
Stuck on how to develop that solid branding strategy we’ve been talking about? I got you! Inside the Brand Blueprint we discuss how to create your own stunning and unique visual brand for your heart-centered business.