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Branding is About Authenticity, Not Deception.

Just under a decade ago, I was at Christmas dinner. A family member who I hadn’t seen in quite some time asked a 15-year-old me the question you’d ask any distant relative under 20: 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

“Uhhh, probably something creative-ish… maybe marketing?” I said between bites of roast beef and mashed potatoes. 

As soon as the word “marketing” left my mouth, his face looked like he’d just caught a bite of lumpy gravy. 

“So you’re a sellout.” 

Eek.

Marketing, in all its forms, gets a bad rep. The word calls to mind people in suits plotting away in boardrooms Mad Men-style, devising a plan on how to trick consumers into spending their hard-earned cash on something they don’t need. 

While this is obviously a blatant generalization and an ineffective approach to consumer relationships (more on that later), I’d like to unpack the reasoning for this stereotype with an example.

Defining Deception

At AtticSalt, part of our Brand Workshop process explores brand perception & personality on a thematic level, illustrated via brand archetypes. As we unpack the meaning of brand archetypes and how they appear in some of the world’s most beloved brands, one example always seems to raise an eyebrow.

“McDonald’s is… The Innocent?”

Yes, this is true. They have a jingle for crying out loud. But what’s more interesting is the skepticism.

Despite their cheery colors, heartfelt messaging, and “I’m lovin’ it” attitude, one can’t help but pause when they realize this is the same company that became the world’s highest-grossing fast-food chain (and one of the world’s largest corporations overall) by selling immortal hamburgers as a suitable form of nourishment. Doesn’t quite add up, does it?

Actions Speak Louder

News spreads like wildfire. Social media keeps the conversation going 24/7. We live in a fast-paced, often polarizing, and increasingly global world. With all of these factors at play, brands feel a growing pressure to fit themselves into the narrative. 

Innovation. Passion. Integrity. Inclusion. The current zeitgeist runs aplenty with marketing buzzwords. While these are all attributes every company should strive for, they lose their luster when they come from an obligation to stay relevant. If you have to sell your consumer (or your team) on just how “forward-thinking,” “empathetic,” and “honest” your company is, it’s likely sending the opposite message – all at the cost of true authenticity. 

Authenticity is shown through actions, not words.

A brand can be aspirational and still be authentic. This is where brand vision comes in. The meaning that consumers and stakeholders derive from your brand is a reflection of who you are on the inside. Your brand’s strength comes from being to clear about who you are, where you currently stand, and where you’re headed.

Like any English teacher you’ve ever had has told you: show, don’t tell. Buzzwords are a hell of a lot more powerful when your consumers can see these guiding principles go beyond your landing page, and put into practice.

Start With Authenticity

Marketing and branding are inexplicably related, but there is an important distinction. Your brand is the meaning that individuals attach to an organization, product, or service. Your marketing is how you promote and leverage that brand in the world. 

Beyond informing consumers of your offering, effective marketing illustrates your brand’s story in action. It leverages your perspective – your values, personality, and vision for the future – to give your consumer something to connect to, to grow with. 

When onboarding a new client, we always preface our discovery phase by setting the expectation that this process will take us from chaos to clarity in 3 days. Basically, it’s going to get worse before it gets better (authenticity!). And there’s a reason for that. 

Putting lipstick on a pig is easy. And honestly, the strategy isn’t entirely futile. Just ask McDonald’s. While telling someone what they want to hear might earn you a quick buck, like in any healthy relationship, deception is a surefire way to irreparably damage your chances of long-term loyalty with your consumer. 

At AtticSalt, we know that real results come from playing the long game. We start at the core of your business to unearth your brand’s heartbeat, understand the types of people you hope to work with, the impact you hope to have on them, and how. By pinpointing your brand’s unique perspective & personality, we work to craft a verbal and visual language that expands upon this story in a focused and intentional way. 

By orienting each step of our brand strategy in your brand’s why, we create a brand that is not only authentic to you, but that gives your brand consumers something human to connect with.

People form relationships with people they like and trust. The same goes for business. It’s no longer good enough to say you’re authentic. You have to build a brand on it. 

The first step to a solid foundation for your brand is a branding partner you can trust. That’s where we come in. Contact us today!

By Lauren Carr-Gasso Dec 16, 2021
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