Authentic brand communication rings true with your target audience. When they read, hear, or see authentic messages from your brand, it resonates with them.
And if not? Then there’s a major disconnect. Many brands today are focusing on timely social issues to appeal to their customers. This can be problematic on many levels
The Hallmarks of Authentic Brand Communication
I’d signed up for a writer’s email list in the hopes of more of the great content I’d found online. You see, she writes about food. I love food.,cooking, healthy food.
Reading well-written foodie essays offers an escape. It’s what I seek from food writing: to learn, dream, escape.
I’d been reading her columns on a website for a few weeks and finally clicked on the subscribe button at the top of her column to receive her weekly emails. The subscription box promised emails about food, cuisine, and dining – sounds great!
Who Is Your Audience?
Her first email arrived this morning with the subject line, “American Cuisine.” I eagerly clicked it open, only to read a diatribe against America. Aghast, I looked for the point – wasn’t this going to explain to me what American Cuisine consisted of? Or point out that America, the great melting pot of civilization, where all creeds, races, and nationalities can assimilate, doesn’t have its own cuisine because everyone’s cuisine is our cuisine?
Nope. She began a diatribe against the evils of Imperialistic America.
I couldn’t read on. She didn’t even have an unsubscribe button, by the way just something to “turn off” emails. Which means my email address is still in her files — and against the law, by the way.
Mismatch Between Brand Persona and Personal Persona
Brand communication takes into account the target audience and their wants, needs, and desires. Brands understand their audience’s personas – who is the target customer? And then their communications are aimed at the target audience.
Perhaps, being an old-school, traditionalist, patriotic America, I wasn’t really her target audience. That’s a fair enough point. However, when a writer pens articles about food, dining, and cooking….her brand IS food, dining, and cooking. None of her previous communications hinted at an anti-American rant lying under the surface of a bubble stew of words.
Perhaps because today is Columbus Day, or, in some parts of the United States, Indigenous Peoples Day, she felt it necessary to focus on America’s imperialistic evils.
If so, she committed a huge branding faux pas.
Never sacrifice your brand communications to ride on the coattails of what is timely or in the news.
What’s in the moment now? Societal ills, of course. Everywhere, brands are suddenly discovering that not all of their customers are Caucasian. Most of them knew this, of course, but consumers wouldn’t have known it by their advertising. I’m still mystified why all the expensive perfume ads like Chanel and Lancome feature only blond white women. Hey, guys, rich women come in all colors, and all of them love luxury perfumes.
But I digress. I don’t think the author of the offending email hopped on the hip bandwagon to stir the pot. I think she truly believed in what she wrote.
And that’s where the brand communications went horribly wrong.
Message Mismatch with Audience Needs
Her brand = food.
Her personal beliefs = progressive
One of the issues I see frequently with people who are their own brand (artists, writers, musicians, entrepreneurs) is that they have trouble separating their own identity from that of their brand.
If your brand is food and cooking, you appeal to a certain person. Their need is to learn, to be entertained, to dream.
If all of your articles are about comfort food, cooking from scratch, and cooking at home, your brand persona comes across as more traditional than your personal ideals.
The issue appeared when her personal beliefs clashed with her brand persona as a food writer.
Brand Persona – Focused Communications
Good brand communication is focused on the match between your brand promise and the desires of your target audience or persona.
One way to prevent your own personal bias from creeping into the products you produce (your art, for example, or writing) is to develop a target persona. The target persona is a made up person based on who you believe, to the best evidence that you have, is the audience for your work.
For my blog Home Garden Joy, for example, the demographics reveal that my target reader is female, age 65, and loves home and cooking. By imagining my friends Eni or Karel, who fit that demographic, I easily write for that audience.
But if I try to write a piece aimed at my very hip video game marketing niece for that blog, it’s going to confuse many people, because my language, writing style, and even photographs will change to address a hip 30-something. And if I try to do that, my brand communications, or communicating the implicit brand promise of Home Garden Joy, will fall flat, because the concerns of a hip 30-something year old are in general quite different from that of a mature 65+ woman who loves nurturing her garden and tending her home.
Brand Clarity Through Communications
Good brand communications is clear communications. It speaks to the wants, needs, and desires of the target audience — not to your wants, needs, and desires of expression.
There’s a time and a place to express personal thoughts, but not to readers who’ve signed up for more articles like your wonderful piece on the perfect grilled cheese sandwich or how to successfully debone a flounder. Brand disconnects feel like promises broken, and that’s exactly what they are: a bond, broken, between brand and target audience.
Jeanne Grunert is a noted expert on brand communications and one of America’s top marketing writers. She is the president of Seven Oaks Consulting and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org