Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Authentic Brand (2/2)

Much of modern marketing over the last few decades tried to create facades around brands. Unfortunately, sometimes it wasn't that the brand offered a benefit that was truly unique but that the brand was only positioned that way.

Positioning is merely creating a frame of reference for the consumer so they can more easily understand what a brand stands for. The term was coined by Jack Trout and Al Ries in their book, Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, in 1981. Truly, it is the best book ever written about branding. It is sad that too many marketers used the concept to create facades for brands that only discussed less-than-significant brand differences rather that trying to create a brand that was actually superior to other brands in the marketplace. But organizations are lazy and risk averse and they play it safe far to often. Few will swing for the fences in an effort to offer a blockbuster brand that consumers will rave about.

All this change will not be good for every business.

All that being said, everything in this e-Book is about building an authentic brand, a brand that is refreshingly candid about what it will and will not do. Or, if it is trying something that might work but is not sure yet that it can do it, that it will inform customers of this so that they are not persuaded to buy something that is not yet proven. If your plan is to create a facade or to only build a brand that will be at parity with others in the marketplace and will not seek to be truly distinctive because of a real benefit, stop reading right now. You have wasted your time thus far and I hate for you to waste any more of it. The approach of Your Brand Reps demands authenticity and you will be easily found out if brand authenticity is not in your plan. This is not simply an ethical issue, but the approach we will discuss can only be achieved if small business owners are completely candid about their brand's value in the marketplace. Only then can a successful and authentic brand be enhanced.

Soon after September 11, 2001, I began hearing "authenticity" mentioned as a driving force in Americans' lives and their relationships. I am an avid reader of business publications, both periodicals and books, and don't recall hearing much of authenticity as it relates to business and marketing discussed before that fateful event that challenged much of what Americans appreciated and valued in their lives.

I am far from the only marketer talking about authenticity. Last year, Time magazine labeled authenticity of the "10 ideas that are changing the world." Writer John Cloud attributed this movement to consumers' "longing" for things real in a world of pretenders and shams.
Strategic Horizons' Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, who wrote The Experience Economy, encouraged companies to think about the experiences customers had with their brands and how they could actually create favorable and memorable brand experiences. They recently followed up that best seller with Authenticity:What Consumers Really Want. In their book, Pine and Gilmore actually offer a process for achieving authenticity.

Suffice it to say that marketing is changing, changing quickly and, for the most part, changing for the good of consumers. However, all this change will not be good for every business. I hope your small business heeds the call and realizes that marketing in the future will not be "business as usual." Consumers will increasingly demand authenticity from you and your brand.

What does this mean for small businesses? It means under-promising in your marketing communications and over-delivering in your customer service. It means staying in touch with your customers when it is good for them, not just to your benefit. It means pricing your brands fairly and not trying some promotional stunt that makes your customers worry about what your brand is really worth. It means making your brand available to your customers in ways that really make their lives more convenient.

In short, get real and stay that way because authenticity is a hard thing to fake.

Thanks for checking in. More to come!

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