If I was going to do a Ted talk, my topic would 1000% be creating an authentic brand. Let’s talk about what that means, why this is SO important, and how to discover what this looks like for you.
Creating an AUTHENTIC brand
Want to listen to the podcast version of this post? I’ve got you covered!
What is creating an authentic brand?
In the marketing age we live in, marketing is behind-the-scenes and social media driven. So we are all the face of our own brands. You can’t hide behind a logo.
Even if you’re in a partnership, you’re still the face of your brand. Maybe you’re working behind the scenes and someone else is the face of the brand… in that case, the brand representation is still affecting you.
Instead of creating an authentic brand, we get caught up either in old corporate ways or in what we think we should do. And we build brands that aren’t really us.
Creating an authentic brand is creating a brand that represents YOU – what you enjoy, your personality, and your core beliefs. If your brand doesn’t show those things about you, it won’t be authentic and people can sense that from a mile away.
There is a pendulum at play here, though. We can swing too far in both directions – too abrasive/off-putting, or too fake. You need to find the middle ground with what your ideal clients need, what the industry is, and being authentic to yourself.
Everything, from the way you speak on podcasts to the feel of your Instagram all need to be authentic. Otherwise, your audience will never know, like, and trust you.
This applies to ANY type of business
If you are a service-based business, a corporate consultant, a product-based business, or whatever… Creating an authentic brand is SO important. So don’t think this doesn’t apply to you.
Some examples of creating an authentic brand
Pillow Cube is a pillow brand niched down JUST for side sleepers (and if you are a side sleeper, it’s pretty good). The advertisement that they’ve created for the Pillow Cube is HYSTERICAL. It takes you into a telenovela where this woman is trying to suffocate her husband with the pillow cube, and she can’t because he can breathe through it. It’s a very funny commercial.
They went out on a limb and showed their authentic sense of humor, and it works well!
I have seen corporate consultants totally change their posture when they go into a corporate environment. They put on the heels and talk a certain way. I’m not saying to show up as a corporate consultant in jogging pants, but I do mean that you need to be yourself. Otherwise, you’re losing your authenticity (which is probably why they hired you in the first place).
There have been plenty of times where I’ve shown up to do corporate consulting in holey jeans. Almost every time I speak on stage, I wear holey jeans. And when I don’t wear holey jeans, I always wear something I would usually wear! I care about what I look like on stage, but I’m not trying to dress like or be someone different.
Example of how I create an authentic brand
So, now you know I wear holey jeans on stage… But you may not have known that I also almost NEVER wear shoes when I speak on stage. There are some exceptions, but I hardly ever wear shoes when I’m speaking.
In 2018, I spoke at a LOT of conferences. And me speaking with no shoes on became a “thing,” and it still is. I could be speaking on the most corporate stage ever, and I still wouldn’t wear shoes. Because that’s ME and it’s authentic.
My Louis Vuitton Bag story…
Back in late 2019, I went to Los Angeles and I wanted to buy a Louis Vuitton NeverFull bag. But I tried it on and didn’t love how it looked on me. Instead, I fell in love with another bag… 3x the price, and I bought it.
I bought it in cash with my debit card, and it was a big deal for me to buy something that expensive without even questioning it. Changing my money mindset was a big reason why I purchased it.
I loved the bag, and felt super fancy in it. But I never used it. And for me to justify spending that much money on a bag, I needed to be using it constantly. Plus, I never dressed fancy enough for this to look like it was my bag.
So, I sold it.
The lesson I learned there? That is not ME. The bag I carry every single day that feels very “me” is a leather bag that costs $200. Not $3,000.
I used the money from selling the bag to purchase a new camera at the end of last year. I love it, I love the look, and the reason I bought it is clear to me. THAT’S what I invest in, because it’s me.
Not being fancy to keep up has been one of the ways I’ve worked on creating an authentic brand.
Being the same on the Internet as I am in real life
Online me and real-life me act the same! That’s a major way I’ve created an authentic brand. I’ve run into people at conferences who tell me I’m exactly like they thought I would be based on my content, and it’s true!
I have met plenty of people whose social media presence and actual personality are like two entirely different people. That is easy to pick up on, and it really breaks the trust between you and your audience. Trust being broken means people will never, ever buy from you.
Think about how you would have a conversation in real life. What would you say? What energy would you bring to the conversation? THAT is how you should present your internet presence to help create an authentic brand.
Sharing that I live on a farm
This comes up in natural conversation when I’m filming YouTube videos. I’ll pause and say you’re about to hear a cow mooing or talk about my farm life on Instagram stories.
I am NOT a farm girl – I didn’t grow up on one, and it’s not my passion. But it is my husband’s passion. In general, that’s not my normal fault. So to share that I live on a farm but also share who I truly am is authentic. Like I’m not the one going out and feeding cows every day, and if I pretended like I did, it would come across fake.
There was a time when I wanted to have two brands: the Hey Jessica brand, and a farm life brand about home decor and farming. But that brand wasn’t fully authentic to me. I love to decorate, but when I find a way I like it, I leave it alone. So I didn’t pursue it. But I still share those details behind the scenes in my brand.
Not trying to change my accent
One of the BIGGEST ways I show authenticity in my brand is by not trying to change my accent.
I do think my accent has changed over the years – I think I’ve lost a bit of my twang when I’m speaking. Jonathan says I have a “podcast voice,” but that’s not because I’m trying to get rid of my accent – it’s because I’m trying to enunciate and talk slower.
For the first few years in my business, I was SO embarrassed by my accent. I thought it made me less capable as a business owner, and I would try and hide it. Because THAT is the narrative that my generation was told – to speak better, or you couldn’t make it.
I went to college one county over, and the professor for my broadcasting class told us that if we wanted to use our voice to make money, you CANNOT have an accent. And I’m sitting here as proof that that isn’t true.
So I tried to hide my accent when I started my business. I was nervous to get on the phone with potential clients because I thought they wouldn’t take me as seriously.
For the last six years, though, I’ve EMBRACED my accent. When I started showing up on the Internet, people noticed and loved my accent. It was one of the major reasons people remembered me! My accent is authentic, and it makes me stand out.
How do you discover your authentic brand traits?
Know WHO you are and WHAT you like!
If you remove all the noise in the world – the voices, the competitors, everything… Who are you?
What are your core beliefs and values? How do you naturally speak? What’s your favorite way to dress? If you had to pick between neutral and super bright colors, what would you pick? Are you organized or disorganized? Are you super type-A or a little bit ADHD?
Lay out exactly who you are, truly, without influence from what you think you should be. Then, recognize what makes you DIFFERENT from someone in your industry who does similar things as you.
Those differences that come from creating an authentic brand are what’s going to set you apart from other people in your industry. It’s why a client will hire you over someone else, or buy your product in a sea of a million others.
Sally Hogshead has a famous quote – “Different is better than better.”
Being different means that YOU can stand out and be the person who people think of first. Find what makes you different, embrace it in your branding, marketing, feeds, and content, and you’ll start creating an authentic brand.
If you’re struggling with this, do some journaling. Write down your character traits, preferences, and all the things about you that make you who you are. This will help you understand how you’re different. ANd being different is what separates you from everybody else.