With the barrage of Social Media Influencers and Life Coaches all competing for eyeballs to float in their brand soup offerings, we discuss why the phrase ‘authentic brand’ will always be an oxymoron.
By Joseph Smith
You are not a brand. You are not your shoes or the things that you own. People don’t come and work at you. No one ever dropped down the shops to grab a bag of you. You are not a slogan that somehow is meant to encompass the entirety of you. You are so much more than a brand.
Brands also tend to leave much out. McDonalds is a brand, but excessive consumption can cause diabetes, tooth decay, systemic failure of your organs and contribute to your death, but that’s hardly on the brand slogan now is it, ‘I’m Lovin It’. So why are we trying to redact ourselves into a marketable consumer product?
I don’t want to be bought or owned (well at least not anymore than I currently am). I may very well be the first human to spontaneously combust and instantaneously vaporise if I see another post or person that uses the term personal brand and authentic in the same sentence.
How can you package yourself as a brand and be authentic? It’s an oxymoron. It’s also moronic. Let’s do a quick analysis of a couple of well-known humans who made themselves into a brand; US President Trump. Sure, that hasn’t done anything weird to him and he is perfectly normal. Richard Branson perhaps? His ‘authentic brand’ is an affable hippy guy with strong environmental credentials while running an airline and spending billions on commercialising space travel. No contradictions there whatsoever…
If your better self is nice, then be authentic. If you’re a bit of an asshole, try being inauthentic. Who knows, you may grow into the role. I’m not against trying hard or aspiring to be better at life; it’s a good thing. It does however, become somewhat disingenuous when you start to talk about yourself as a brand in the third person.
I have a few friends (yes, it’s a surprise to me too some days) in advertising who dream up branding campaigns every day. Here’s the low down. Not one of them really believes their concoctions to be true. That’s because brands, all brands, are constructs. It boils down to a simple proposition; does this portray the message we want to project? The truth has nothing to do with it. I’m sure sometimes it does intersect with the truth but that is purely incidental.
Brands are not people and people are not brands. if you spoke to someone 120 years ago and tried to explain how we are trying to make brands like people and now people are trying to be like brands, you would be locked up…mind you the conversation would have been funny right up to being dragged away.
Here’s some tried and tested advice which applies in every generation. If you want to be better at what you do or be a better person, spend all your time being a better person or working on the skills you need to be better at what you want to do. Spend zero time trying to package yourself as a saucy treat that can only be feed to the dogs.