The Habits of Authentic Brands

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If you are a fake, declare it and own some brand authenticity

At our E3 global network agency network meeting in Duisburg Germany last week we explored a theme around the Power of Origin in branding. We had a variety of speakers covering topics from place branding to storytelling and everything in between. One topic relevant to most brands (or should be) was ‘Authenticity’. Professor Michael Beverland from the University of Bath shared with us the seven habits of iconic brands when building brand authenticity.

Beverland suggests the following habits are ones that show up time and time again, although not all necessarily being present in each brand context:

1. Story telling; the capacity to keep a particular narrative going
2. Appearing as artisanal amateurs; the passion of people who care
3. Sticking to your roots; the retention of key traditions
4. Loving the doing; the sincerity of a commitment to quality
5. Market immersion; breakthrough innovations that are less about focus groups and more about real consumer concerns
6. Being at one with the community; becoming part of the culture to reflect key myths
7. Indoctrinating staff into the brand cult; employees who believe

There are no real surprises in the above shapers of authenticity. However, Beverland adds some insightful dimensions to them. In particular I like his thoughts around ‘appearing as artisanal amateurs’. We have worked across a lot of brands who wish to project a sense of being artisan. Likewise we have worked with brands who have inadvertently killed off an sense of being artisan – this is particularly the case when large corporates buy successful artisan founded brands, and Treasury Wines Estates is a good example. Treasury Wines Estates have grown their portfolio buy acquiring brands that result in the founder being put out to pasture and the true artisan love replaced by a corporate structure and marketing department.

Beverland suggests a number of key themes worthy of magnifying when promoting an artisan or amateur positioning to the market. These include conveying that:

• We love what I do
• We are not formally trained
• We pursue craft traditions
• We don’t do marketing / not bad for no budget
• Luck has played a big role
• We have failed along the way

The feeling you get from Beverland is that to build an artisan platform requires not only an element of craftsmanship, but also a good dose of self effacing all round brilliance. Easy really.

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

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