Steve Thomas has written a thoughtful piece for the Zweig Letter about branding, authenticity, and values. His point is that designing your brand around truly authentic values — both on a personal and business level — will pay off with meaningful and effective results.
I started thinking about branding years ago on This Old House as our ratings climbed and we became the most-watched regular series on PBS. I continued to think about it as we built the whole Renovation Nation brand on Discovery’s Planet Green. The two shows were quite different from each other – TOH was PBS, Renovation Nation was Discovery, TOH was 30 minutes, Renovation Nation was a commercial hour, TOH was of the “Ken Burns pace,” kind of slow, and Renovation Nation was on steroids. Yet both programs stuck to the “core PBS values” of “Inform, Entertain, and Inspire.”
Inspiration sounds like an outdated value, but really it belongs to the cluster of values known as “authenticity.” Think of the success of Patagonia as a brand. The clothing is produced by the world wide clothing supply chain in factories that also produce Colombia, North Face, and so forth. But Patagonia remains a premier brand because the clothing and the company is authentic, designed and favored by professionals and core outdoors people.
As I reviewed Thomas’ post, I felt that awkward tinge that I related about a week ago; about how effective marketing differentiation is almost too each to implement it if you have the right stuff, and truly hard to do if you are trying to force the story.
In the latter, your efforts to create the differentiation or design your marketing niche will fail the authenticity test, unless are really willing to put in some hard effort to ensure that everything you do matches the brand message you wish to express. Conversely if your differentiation comes naturally — because it is who you are, not who you say you are — then obviously you don’t really need to push the rock uphill to achieve marketing and branding success.
Realistically, I don’t think anyone can instil new values in your head (and therefore into your business and marketing space). You might be able to clarify and understand what really matters to you and improve your messaging and alignment with current and potential clients, and perhaps an external consultant can help you figure out your values.
If you really don’t know your values; if you don’t have a clear sense of identity and purpose and reason in life, I think you’ll engaged in a perennial struggle. If that is the case, you may need to take a long journey to places unknown to work out the underlying answers — and that type of discovery is way beyond the scope of any marketing consultant/blog.