The Challenge Of Brand Authenticity

In online marketing in recent years, authenticity has become one of the most popular buzzwords. Everybody is talking about people’s need to be authentic, but very few people are actually talking about how to do it.

The idea that this group or that group cannot be authentic isn’t true.

Authenticity is a choice, and like excellence, authenticity is not an outcome but a habit. A practice. A way of life. Once we come to this understanding, we can get to the business of sharing our authenticity with the world.

Finding Authenticity

When organisations come to find an identity, accept themselves, and live in their truth, that’s when they will shine. Be vulnerable, be happy, be sad, be human. Be cognisant of the fact that your brand story is not necessarily your product but rather the story of how you experience it.

Our stories include the stories we love to tell, and the stories we love to hear. They’re the stories that move us, and the part of the story we focus on is very important.

It is the stories that come from the mundane that create the extraordinary

We tell stories from our individual perspectives, so if you tell a story about writing through the eyes of the writer, the writer will be the star or the villain, if you tell it through the eyes of the paper, the paper will feel human and complex and rich, and offer opportunities for the reader to form associations.

Being Authentic As A Brand

Brands should aim to be an extension of their consumers’ personalities, Brand associations are very important, and they’re important because a brand’s story is implicit in how it is perceived.

In general, most brands seem to have a clear understanding of how bad associations can impact them negatively. At the same time though, they often seem resistant to the idea of putting in the work to create good associations.

The past couple of years have seen us talking about the importance of storytelling and authenticity. While these are beautiful themes, and we should be talking about what they mean and why they are important, we rarely seem to discuss how to be authentic especially for products that are not deemed “sexy.”

Curating Your Authenticity

Another important question to ask is that if we are “producing” this authenticity for the purposes of marketing, then how authentic is it really? Does curation invalidate authenticity?

My feeling is that the answer is no.

The whole human experience is curated. Our lives are governed by rules and expectations and boundaries. This for the most part allows us to live a balanced life, and it does not mean we are not living as our truest selves, it just means we present different parts of ourselves at different times. And the same is true for brands.

From Mundane To Extraordinary

The human experience itself is extraordinary. Even in the most boring of days, our very breath remains extraordinary.

Of course, we live in a commercialised world saturated with information and experiences that claim to be authentic, and we can have many conversations about fake and authentic.

But the idea that brands, particularly brands that are not deemed exciting, cannot become storytellers or rather, cannot tell their stories on social media because they’re not exciting is not at all true.

The reality is, everything is a story. We relay information to people in our lives about the most basic things every day.  We tell animated, engaged stories about the most ‘’ uninteresting’’ things all the time, and I think that Olivia Gatwood said it best in her TEDx Talk, when she said “we find each other in the detail.”

Making Stories

The story comes out between your emotions, and your interaction with your surroundings as you experience those emotions.

Saying “buy our pencils, they are really good” might get a reasonable amount of people to buy them. But saying, “sometimes coffee spills, lovers leave and the only good thing about the day is that although your pencil fell, you could pick it up and proceed with your day,” telling a story about the pencil in other words, might get even more people to buy your pencils.

The story here is not about the pencil. It’s not the eating or the lover. The story is the universality of the human experience.  It is a story about chaos and grief, it’s about celebrating small victories. If your job is to communicate how important a sharpener is, tell the whole story!

To paraphrase Gestalt, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. My interpretation of this is that each individual part makes up the whole and to me this means for each part to exist as an individual it has to be a whole in its own way and by virtue of this each part has an individual story to tell.

In conclusion, the key takeaway is that you already have authentic stories, everywhere. What you need to learn is to fine-tune your stories and strategically choose when to post. You need to understand what your mission is and what your brand values are. How do these translate to your everyday life? These everyday stories are the authentic content you need to share on your social media.