Brand You – 12 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand – Step 2: The Power of Authenticity

March 13, 2013 |  by  |  Linkedin Blog

Step 2: The Power of Authenticity

Let me ask you a question.

Do you prefer real flowers or plastic flowers?

If you’re like most people I suspect that you prefer real flowers, even though they discolour, the petals fall off and then they die.

The Japanese have a principle called Wabi-Sabi which teaches that imperfections, flaws and character are far more interesting and valuable than something which is absolutely perfect.

LinkedIn ManThat’s why we prefer real flowers to plastic flowers, even though the plastic flowers won’t fade and wilt.

It’s the same with people. Think about the politicians that you’ve heard on television. Most of them have that awful hectoring tone and talk like robots don’t they? They’re really irritating. No wonder so few of us ever believe what they say.

We love people that are real don’t we? People who don’t remove their soul from what they say.

Real, honest, genuine people are like magnets who attract all the people and resources they need to be successful.

The one thing that you’re a world champion at is being you. No one does you better than you do. You’re the best at being you. The one thing that your competitors can never copy is the “you” in your product or service. Your USP is you. The more you try and conform to a stereotype of what you think you should sound like the more you’ll lose the real you. Say what you want to say in a manner that’s consistent with who you are. Don’t be afraid to be open and wear your heart on your sleeve because it reveals your humanity. And it’s our humanity which connects us. It’s our humanity which brings us together.

People don’t want more information. They’re up to their eyeballs in information. They want to be able to trust you and what you say. And the best way to get people to trust you, is by getting up close and personal with them and telling them your story and listening to their story. The missing ingredient in most failed communication is humanity because people remove their soul from what they say.

Rather than being perceived as just another product or service you can make your offering unique by humanising and personalising it. You need to leave a piece of your DNA and your fingerprints on everything you do. Every pore of your business needs to permeate you. This is what Steve Jobs did with Apple, what Sir James Dyson does with vacuum cleaners and what Sir Richard Branson does with Virgin.

Your authenticity is the foundation to your brand.

The world of business is overflowing with “professionals” who try to be pristine and perfect, but they come across as having suffered a charisma by pass and have as much depth as a cardboard cut out. It’s not about being professional, it’s about being genuine.

I was on a late running train recently. When the train finally reached its destination a dull voice blurted across the speaker system “We apologise for any inconvenience caused.” You wouldn’t speak like that to one of your friends or someone you care about would you?

As chance would have it, on the return journey my tube train stood still for several minutes at the platform for no apparent reason. After a couple of minutes, the train driver said “I’m sorry for the delay. To be honest I don’t know why we’re being kept here. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know.” A couple of minutes later the train driver said “There’s been a signal fault which has now been rectified. I think we’ll be here for another two to three minutes then we should be on our way. If it’s any longer than that I’ll let you know.” Sure enough, about two minutes later the train left the platform. As it reached the next stop the train driver said “I’m really sorry for the delay folks. The last thing anyone wants on a Friday afternoon is to be late getting home. I hope that the rest of your journey is on time and that this hasn’t made you late for any plans that you’ve made tonight. Have a great weekend. ”

I guess you find the latter apology a tad more appealing and it doesn’t leave you cursing the rail company, right?

Talk to your customers how you want people to speak to you. Avoid any needless jargon, don’t use 100 words when 10 will do, mean what you say and say it with feeling.

What would happen to your business if you were completely transparent and didn’t put a spin on what your selling?

Just imagine if you came across an estate agent who didn’t tell you that now is the very best time to sell your house and that every house on his books is an absolute bargain.

Instead he had a property where he said, the property is very shabby, needs a huge amount of work and is only for those people seeking a challenging project. But at £250k and given the good location, if you’re prepared to manage a large, long term project you can get a good return on your invest.

You would quickly be known as the “no bullshit” estate agent and what would this do for your business.

The car rental company Avis – the world’s second largest car rental company – used the principle of authenticity to great effect when they proudly announced:
“Avis. We’re Number 2, but we try harder. (When you’re not No. 1 you have to.)”

Stella Artois don’t hide the fact that their beer is expensive. They celebrate the fact by saying that its “Reassuringly Expensive.” This has proved to be a very profitable piece of marketing.

Appeal to people’s hearts and not just their minds. This is what the advertising industry does because they know that there’s money in emotion. One of BMW’s recent television adverts has the strap line, “We bring you joy” accompanied by a BMW driving down a beautiful mountain road on a lovely sunny day with smiling passengers and lots of feel good music pumping out in the background. Not a word about how superbly engineered their cars are.

We’ve moved for the Information Age to the Relationship Age. To be successful in business today, you need to understand relationships. If you don’t understand relationships, then you don’t understand business.

The E in E-commerce stands for Emotion and that’s what I’ll be talking about in my next column.

If you missed step 1: A lust for trust, you can find it here

Sunil Bali

As well as being a recognised authority on personal branding and peak performance, Sunil is a critically acclaimed author and blogger. His corporate experience includes roles as Head of Talent on behalf of Vodafone Group, Santander (UK) and Cable & Wireless Europe. Sunil has also run a multi-million pound recruitment business, and is a Non Executive Director. Sunil’s first degree in Sports Science and Psychology fuelled his passion for the psychology of human achievement and well-being. As well as possessing an MBA, he is a qualified Psychotherapist and Executive Coach.

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