A core theme in his book is about being authentic. The more I think about authenticity, the more I believe it should be a core acid test to any brand communication. Why bother saying the same stuff that everyone else is saying? Do we, the consumer / client, believe any of the generic company values any more?
We know what happens when you try to appear authentic but don't actually deliver. The business press is littered with stories of big corporates saying one thing and doing another. Very damaging for them but they have big budgets to cope and often market their way out of it. But this does create an opportunity for smaller, challenger brands to take advantage and play the authenticity card really well as they have less structure, more control and can change faster.
So perhaps my point is to nurture authenticity as you grow. To try and hold on to the original, core idea/beliefs/values while you transform into successful medium or large businesses. Virgin is a good example where authenticity and entrepreneurship is still at the core of the brand.
Ban the bland
The goal is to create that all important unique and compelling message. To do this we need to ban the bland stuff at the outset of every communication project. We often talk to clients about what should be 'given' in the brand. By this, we mean that you really don't need to say that you offer a 'quality service' or have excellent 'customer care' – no-one would ever say the opposite so really it is just bland noise that gets in the way of communicating something that will actually resonate with your audience. The only time where it might be relevant is if you have won awards or you have some great stats on your service or your customers say amazing things about you, then that is great as those are facts that people can believe in which makes you more authentic. But if not, just take it as given and move on to something more interesting.
Statistics and hunches
As businesses grow they get access to more data and statistics. Global brands have Big Data which they use diligently to try and predict the future. Big Data and in fact any kind of statistic can be very re-assuring to work from but one thing it may not do is help you stay authentic. It is vital in telling you what has happened and it can help in guessing what will happen next but it is at this stage that hunches, creative thinking and innovation can really work its magic. Great authentic brands lead the way and show you new things and solve new problems. I believe you will simply be more successful in business if you research your audience and put their needs at the centre PLUS think of your unique way to reach out to them, tell your story and why it is relevant to them. Keep it fresh and creative!
Don't be afraid to re-think
So, back to that acid test. The next time you are reviewing a piece of communication think about the following:
• Is the channel and quality of design absolutely right for the audience?
• Does it stand out from the competitors – is it different enough?
• Is it believable and will the audience connect emotionally?
If you feel hesitant to answer yes to any of the above, be brave and re-think!
Do fewer things and do them better. Focus on quality of content, design and delivery. Great design can quietly scream authenticity as it will quickly explain not only who you are but also who you are for.
Walk the walk. Public scrutiny is like never before so if you don't do what you say, you leave yourself wide open to exposure and a lot of damage can be done to your brand very quickly.
Finally, be totally committed. Long-term commitment will deliver momentum and being a bit braver will lead to you being known and remembered – surely far more useful than casual indifference?