When it comes to branding and entrepreneurship as a whole, authenticity is often far more important than any “sales tactics” or marketing plans.
Those things are also incredibly important — essential for businesses to thrive, in fact.
Let’s first take a look at the concepts
Branding is “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.”
Basically, branding is how you and your company are presented to the world. Your name, logo, color choices, fonts, banners, mascots, etc.
Your branding is a marketing tool and is what allows your company to stand out from the competition. When done right, it helps build trust and even support your mission and vision as a business.
Think about the Nike swoosh — I don’t have to put an image; you know exactly what I’m talking about. No matter where you see it or if it has text with it, you know exactly what brand it represents.
Marketing “refers to activities a company undertakes to promote the buying or selling of a product, service, or good.”
In other words, marketing is really what you’re using the branding FOR. For example, doing a paid ad campaign on social media or sending an email blast to your list.
You use your branding to make your marketing strategies cohesive and recognizable.
Almost anything can be a marketing tool, a driver of traffic to your product or service.
As an example, (some of) the books I’ve written are marketing tools for my writing and editing business. I write about freelancing and books and writing, therefore, people who read them understand that I am knowledgeable about the subject and might reach out to me to hire me.
Your social media accounts, especially those tied directly to your business, are marketing tools. You use them to announce new products, give information, and engage with your audience.
Sales is “a transaction between two or more parties in which the buyer receives tangible or intangible goods, services, or assets in exchange for money. … Regardless of the context, a sale is essentially a contract between the buyer and the seller of the particular good or service in question.”
Essentially, a sale is a short-term, sometimes one-time interaction. It is transactional in nature.
But marketing is a longer-term, more relationship-based activity. Sure, it exists to drive sales, but that is not its only purpose. It is meant to engage with your target market, promote the company, build relationships, and advertise the services/goods.
How does authenticity come into play?
Authenticity is imperative in today’s world.
With the advent of the internet and how connected we are, the world has become a smaller place. Customers can easily look up any company and learn about its business practices, mission, social impact, how they treat employees, and so much more.
Customers are smart — and they have more options than ever before.
If customers don’t like how you do business, there are a dozen other companies they can turn to.
And if they don’t trust you, they will not buy from you.
Authenticity is being real and genuine. For businesses, it often goes hand-in-hand with transparency, integrity, sincerity, and building genuine relationships with your customers.
No matter how beautiful your branding or masterful your marketing, without authenticity, you cannot reach the success you want.
If you want to stand out, you must figure out how to be authentic.
And it needs to be real.
Customers will see through fake authenticity.
Think about it — do you trust Facebook?
Probably not. They have had too many issues with data, privacy, and gobbling up the competition.
Sure, you might still use it, but you’re not an advocate of the brand, and it’s all too easy for you to bash it, even on its own platform!
What are some signs of fake authenticity?
- Not delivering on promises your business makes. If your customers are not getting the quality they expect, are missing pieces of the product, or are unable to get a promised refund, etc., how can they believe you care about your product or your customers?
- Pretending you/your business is perfect. Perfection is highly overrated — most customers would rather see reality than an airbrushed image of perfection. And since most people don’t trust perfection, you will lose customers.
- Companies that claim they have a social mission but are unable to prove it.
- Companies that only support certain groups or say they are allies during the month it is celebrated — Black History Month, Pride Month, etc. If you only post a picture of a rainbow cookie in June but never support LGBTQIA+ the rest of the year, we notice. Allyship shouldn’t be just a marketing tool or performative.
- The same goes for gender and minority equality. You can say you support it, but if you have 2% female or POC leadership and a wage gap — then you don’t.
- Fake before and after shots or dramatically photoshopped images.
Authenticity in Marketing
Those were some ways companies come off as not genuine or real. But how do you show your authenticity in marketing and on social media?
The answer is both simple and complex: be yourself, be honest, and have fun.
Companies are neither perfect nor relatable. PEOPLE are relatable and real.
Instead of going for polished perfection, aim for human and genuine.
Look at the way some major corporations have let their social media managers have fun and be human and silly.
Take a look at some of the small business creators on TikTok that have gained huge followings just by being themselves — they talk about the highs and lows of owning a business, share trials and triumphs, and above all, show themselves as human.
@ktscanvases, @jenonajetplane, @lindatongplanners, @belexieshoppe, @modernyarn, and genuinely so many more.
Larger businesses can follow the same template: show your work, show yourself, and be honest.
Highlight employees, show any social impact projects you’re involved in, and discuss the challenges and successes of your business.
When it comes to authenticity, it is NOT a “fake it ’til you make it” process. It’s the opposite — be real ’til you grow.
Be authentic, and success will follow.