More and more often, people crave transparency. They want to know the authentic brand behind a company and all about the good things they’re doing. And if you’re a business that’s authentically a jerk? Well then people want to know about that also, but not in the way you hope. In other words, people want to know the real you as long as that means your business practices are ethical.
So how do you communicate that in your branding?
Always communicate through words and images exactly what it is your business does. It sounds simple, but sticking to that takes a lot of work and diligence on behalf of your branding team. Under-positioning your services isn’t in the best interest of sales, but over-positioning can be very tempting to get false results. Buzzfeed is a great example of over-positioning. Their headlines get overwhelming landslides of clicks, but their readership is starting to get tired of the disappointment from expecting too much from an article.
A strong identity design will sustain sales and engage customers at a higher level than a simple transaction.
What is authenticity?
Authenticity can mean all sorts of different things in different contexts. In terms of how you present your brand, a few adjectives come to mind.
If you’re not sure what your brand voice is yet, this is a good place to start. We’ll use these words to brainstorm a little bit about your brand. Keep in mind that this applies to all aspects of your identity that a branding agency would handle – written and visual. A brand voice isn’t necessarily just words on a page. The photos and images you use should be just as unique and true as the rest of it.
No two people on Earth are exactly the same, and neither should any two businesses be. No matter how badly you want to emulate Apple.
What makes your company different from everyone else? With the help of a branding agency, you can articulate that. Good market research and creative direction goes a long way. Another benefit of using an agency is that most of the brainstorming gets filtered out before it even crosses your desk. Only the best and most interesting branding concepts will be presented, making the ideas that much more fresh and agreeable.
Being transparent means making sure that all levels of your business are aligned. It doesn’t make sense for a company to advocate for environmental policy in their commercials but to also be dumping their industrial waste on baby seals in their manufacturing arm. Consumers can see through that.
If you’re a small media business and your main revenue is through an advertising sales team of one, then that employee is the face of your company on the B2B side. Make sure all B2B marketing materials and spec sheet capture that same authentic voice. It makes sales easier and helps your customers understand the business better. If you’re a restaurant specializing in farm-to-table fare, your logo probably shouldn’t be clip art and stock fonts from the internet. When people can understand the emotional core of your business from your branding, that’s transparency.
What is it that you want to do for your customers?
For example, let’s say that you’re the same farm-to-table restaurant. You have two possible ways to engage your patrons:
- Do you really want to make your customers buy dinner and dessert?
- Or do you want to make them feel like they are getting some wholesome and rustic food, prepared to keep it as true to flavor as possible?
Your answer should be the second one. The first goal is only how you make the customer feel that way. And if you goal as a business is to make someone experience that feeling, then that opens up your business model to all sorts of branding differences and maybe even branching out beyond chef-prepared entrées at some point.
Trying to make a customer experience something (rather than buy something) is what has allowed so many successful restaurants to branch into frozen foods and grocery store items. If they were just trying to make a customer buy something, then these new products would be outside of their business plan. Using passion as part of your branding is more freeing than using products.
Clear and transparent might seem like the same thing, but I’m using them to mean different things when it comes to authenticity. A clear brand can say what it’s about in taglines and copy that don’t go longer than a sentence. That doesn’t mean that they always do, but they can when they need to. Additionally, they don’t use jargon. Plenty of B2B marketing campaigns are guilty of using jargon to sound more impressive than they are. But the best customers are the ones who know why they need your product and will talk about it with their network, not the ones who think they should buy from you and aren’t impressed enough to say much of anything.
Clear communication builds tribes of followers; tribes bring their friends into the fold.
Putting it all together
Is your branding unique, transparent, passionate, and clear? If not, then your potential customers aren’t getting everything they can from your brand. And neither are you.
Good branding is easy to identify, but hard to make. Every marketer can point to Levi’s, Adobe, and more brands that just ‘get’ it. On the inside, these businesses have dozens of employees dedicated strictly to making every brand asset as good as it can be. Smaller companies usually don’t have the resources to devote to brand identity. That’s why they’ve got to work smarter, not harder.
Your brand can be who you are and what you stand for. Be courageous.
Consult with a branding agency like Meyer Bennett Creative to learn more about how your brand can be more authentic.