Authenticity Redefined

Conferences are hit or miss for those of us in advertising and marketing. Let’s be honest we can be a cynical group. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to learn something new or hear a fresh perspective. But, it’s even better when you go to a conference and you find your inner mojo again. The fire that once burned so brightly inside of you, reignited.

We recently took a small group to a conference called The Gathering in Banff in Alberta, Canada. That’s right, Banff! 4,537 feet high nestled in the Rocky Mountains, covered in fresh powdery snow. Not a bad destination to be locked away with some of the most iconic cult-like brands we all love. The Gathering is a three-day meeting of the minds with brands like The North Face, Yeti, Porsche, Marvel, Tony Hawk and airbnb, among many others. The leaders of these brands shared their secrets to building brand affinity and loyalty with their audiences.

Throughout the conference one of the key themes that rang true, regardless of the speaker, was authenticity. Yep, you’ve heard it before. Likely too many times. Hold up though, because this time, I heard it a little differently.

Authenticity was being redefined for being simply human. Human. That’s the word. That word wraps up so many feels - heart, passion, conscience.

Keynotes and breakout sessions focused on how brands can forge a very human connection. And how that connection can make even the largest of brands feel small and personal, allowing them to remain at human scale.

Sounds great, huh? So how do you become and stay an authentic, or human, brand?   

First, you have to define your core values and make sure they resonate in everything you say and do as a brand. They should be grounded in truth, but still allow you plenty of stretching room. From there, you can get to your brand’s purpose, your “why”. Your purpose has to be about one big thing, specific enough to give you direction, but yet still broad enough that you live it long-term, if not forever. You have to be accountable to it and be able to deliver against it.

Then you need to make sure your brand is approachable, lovable and even vulnerable to a degree. This is the human part. Consumers are starving for real experiences, straightforward conversations and honest interactions. And it’s not just about how you connect, but where you connect. You have to know which conversations it makes sense for your brand to enter and how.  

And lastly, you have to remember that authenticity comes when you realize that your brand cannot be all things to all people. Like all things surrounding brand positioning, this requires sacrifice. Focus on what you’re truly great at and sharing that with those to whom it will matter most. That’s how you become and stay an authentic, better yet a human, brand. A cult-like brand.