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Branding is not about Appearance, but Authenticity

illustration©Meral Dabcovich, 2018, all rights reserved

Authenticity starts with knowing what makes a brand tick.​


When organizations of any stripe promote themselves as “best-of-breed,” they take a position that is at once unqualifiable and entirely self-serving. Even worse, it suggests they are either unable or unwilling to create and communicate a brand identity that conveys their character, culture and singularity.

Instead, they attempt to mask that lack of insight with an appearance of what they are not. They may even think that just by putting that “best-of-breed” moniker out there, like some Disney aphorism, the world will take it at face value.

Hence, those companies suffer from a fundamental branding issue: authenticity. Or lack thereof, which is one of the most seriously damaging holes any organization can dig itself into.

In contrast, the way most successful brands avoid that trap is by developing their brand from the inside out rather than the other way around. They know that without understanding their internal culture, its personality, and essential character, it is virtually impossible to render an authentic view of what their organization is all about.

On a personal level, when people first encounter one another for the first time, their initial impression is based on presentation. Greetings and names are exchanged, followed by questions such as: “what do you do?” or its corporate equivalent, “what is your title?” leaving out the far more important question of what makes you who you are?

Stature, clothing, attitude, attractiveness, voice tone, power of engagement, can enable a person to create a surface impression. But rarely does this capture the reality of what’s happening underneath.

For a corporate entity of any kind, it’s no different. The facts about what an organization does can easily be identified and expressed. But the reality of its essence can only come from an incisive definition of what’s going behind the scenes.

Contrary to what some believe, this cannot be accomplished by blithely employing the “best-of breed,” precept or imposing upon an organization a persona it does not have. Simply trying to make an organization look like what it is not is only an embodiment of the classic expression, “putting lipstick on a pig.”

Unfortunately, brand marketers who fail to understand this precept inevitably default to an exposition of the company’s mission, the features and benefits of its products and/or services and the value it purports to bring to its consumers.

Then, to heap error upon error, they employ a massive stream of analytics which only has the effect of shifting the heavy brand lifting to the customer. Find out what the customer wants, the mantra goes, and become that in their eyes. Of course, the inherent flaw there is that it still fails to address the pivotal question upon which successful brand development is predicated: who are you and, by extension, who do you want to become?

For any organization undertaking a branding project, answering that question is the first step. Because communicating a vision of what makes it tick on the inside is what matters most. by Meral Dabcovich and Christopher Payne-Taylor All illustrations © Meral Dabcovich, all rights reserved


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