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Be authentic.

You hear this a lot in marketing and branding.

Brand authenticity is created when everyone that touches the brand is true to the client’s culture, identity, and values. As marketers, our goal is to become intimately familiar with this culture, so we can craft the messages and create the experiences that communicate this authenticity and build brand affinity.

Ultimately, brand authenticity is the responsibility of both client and agency.

I recently learned how easy it is for one person, even one with the best intentions, to misdirect a brand. In this instance, surprisingly, it was the primary client owner of the brand’s voice who steered the brand messaging off course. The changes were subtle at first, but they began to have a cumulative effect that was eroding the brand’s authenticity in a way that even the employees began to feel. Marketing and communications were off in tone, message, and goals, and the biggest consequence was internal disengagement in a business where employees were the primary brand messengers. Employees became silently disgruntled, the worst kind of disgruntled, and they disengaged.

This was an internal problem—one loud voice with a rogue vision—and as the agency, we had an obligation to identify the inconsistencies and missteps and to try to right the ship. Our job is to know our clients, really know them, and to be comfortable enough to not only say when a strategy or message is off target but also to explain how and provide alternate solutions that stay true to the brand.

Brand stewardship goes beyond redirecting off-point tactics. It also applies to established tactics and messages that need to evolve over time and be re-calibrated for changing customer needs. Ultimately, brand authenticity is the responsibility of both client and agency. The client creates it and lives it. The agency protects it.

Read more articles about the best practices for branding.

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