An Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon: Brand Authenticity
With Amazon’s arrival looming around the corner, many retailers and vendors I speak to agree that a key strategy to differentiate your presence in the market is through having a strong brand that people love.
Consumers often choose brands that match their self-image or ideal self- concept in an authentic way. And what better way to bring a brand to life than through a persona. Established brands often need to borrow celebrities to achieve this – think of Gigi Hadid for Tommy Hilfiger, Tiger Woods for TAG Heuer, Nicole Kidman for Chanel. But the power of entrepreneurial brands is that they can build brand authenticity themselves.
Most entrepreneurs start a business because they see a gap in the market or because they can’t find a service or product they personally want. The businesses they create are driven by a passion, a vision and grounded in their own values and beliefs. Gary Elphick, Founder, and CEO of Disrupt Sports says
an idea, a garage, and multi-pack of instant noodles. This is how the story of all great start-ups begins. At the beginning, all you have is the vision to make the world a better place. For me it was how I can help people be part of the making and design of their sports equipment, how can we remove wastage from the supply chain and how can we bring innovation to the sports market. This was the collision of the change I wanted to see in the world and the opportunity I saw, they are one and the same so the business took up all my personal values and beliefs.”
A great example of how a personal story can become the brand story which then resonates with consumers who are looking for meaning beyond the product.
But the key is authenticity, not just for the business but also for yourself. Gary says:
You have to be authentic and you have to love what you do, I believe those two things go hand in hand. Start-ups are hard, early starts, late nights, a lack of socialising. If you have to add being something you’re not or add working on another persona it would drain you. People want to buy from a person, someone or something that aligns with their personal beliefs, not a soulless corporation.”
I chatted with Paul Greenberg, CEO & Founder of NORA about this and his opinion is that
as shopping becomes increasingly digital, one way it can still be a personal endeavor is when customers not only feel engaged with the retail brand, but also with the retail owner. Think of Lana Hopkins of Mon Purse, and Jane Lu of Showpo. As consumers, we relate very much to their products and offer but also with them. The lines quickly blur, and savvy entrepreneurs are stepping ‘out of the shadows’ of their company brands and developing personal brand engagement.”
Interestingly it is often female entrepreneurs who are excelling at creating brand personalities that bring their business to life. Jane Lu, CEO & Founder, Showpo shared with me that “as a small business startup, building a strong brand presence in the market was imperative to the early and subsequent success of Showpo. For both Showpo and my own personal brand, our key was the power of social media, which showcases our brand voice perfectly. The trick is to not care about pleasing everyone, we know who we are and what our brand is so we build on that. The market as a whole is far too big to target everyone so by having a strong voice in a target market, we’re much more likely to dominate.
Paul Greenberg agrees and his tip is to “get active on social media. And don’t be afraid to show a little bit of yourself outside of your work milieu. We all understand the need for ‘personal space’ but a bit of reveal helps build a connection. And you know where your line sits. Share your opinions – The world is changing quickly, and we all have a sense of the opportunities and challenges. Helpful opinion pieces that assist readers to get insights are valuable contributions to the ecosystem.”
And what do you do if you don’t feel so comfortable to take photos and videos of yourself and post them on social media? There are other ways to get your personal brand into the public sphere. Paul suggests leveraging:
“the privilege of platforms such as the Online Retailer event, which are a fabulous way to get amongst it, and great for personal branding. Not an easy gig to get, but if you can convince event directors that you have something valuable to say, and are happy to share your journey, these speaking and panel slots are gold.”
Well, thanks Paul, what can I say? Give me a call and I might be convinced :).
See you at Online Retailer Sydney. Alice.