Why authenticity has never been more important for your personal brand


We encounter branding everyday – from the sponsored posts that pop up in our Facebook feed to the billboards and bus ads we pass as we nip up to the highstreet. But do you ever really stop to consider what makes a brand impactful?

Think about the companies you’re loyal to. What made you want to spend your money with them? Was it an eye-catching logo? Maybe you liked the way they communicated with their customers. Either way, there was something they did that inspired a connection. The most likely culprit? Authenticity.

Why authenticity has never been more important for your personal brand
©Jane O'Sullivan/The Portfolio Collective 2021

Brand authenticity isn’t an overly complicated concept. It’s simply a commitment to being honest and transparent in everything you do. So how can we, as portfolio professionals ensure our brands are authentic?

It’s actually a lot easier than you might think.

Remember, your “why” is just as important as what you offer

Your brand is more than what you sell, it’s you as an independent trader. You want clients to connect with you as much as they connect with your product or service; that way, you build lasting, effective relationships that grow and develop over time.

It’s not just about what you do. It’s about why you do it. What values do you hold? What events or realisations led you to launch your portfolio career? These things give potential clients a more intimate understanding of you and what you can accomplish.

This is true for big corporations as much as it is for portfolio professionals. Take, for example, Dove and their Self Esteem project. In 2004, this began with their Campaign for Real Beauty, and now, that concept is embedded across everything they do. Their current mission statement is:

“We believe beauty should be a source of confidence, and not anxiety.”

What they did, that drove their brand even further, was align that mission statement with their marketing. Now their brand is all about empowering women and changing the conversation around beauty – something that intensely resonates with their customers.

Of course, we’re not saying you have to go out and launch a huge, world-rattling campaign. You just need to understand what drives you and ensure those values come across in your personal branding.

A really good brand is:

✔️ Emotive

✔️ Honest

✔️ Consistent

✔️ Respectful

All of these aspects combined create trust, and trust creates loyalty. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than staying true to yourself.

How our brains process branding

authenticity has never been more important for your personal brand

Branding is an immensely psychological experience. Everything about a brand is designed to induce popularity and loyalty, ultimately enticing customers to connect with the product or organisation on an emotional level. That figurative relationship is key, and the best way for you to establish it is through authenticity.

In 2020, HawkPartners conducted a study to better understand the importance of brand authenticity during a crisis. What they found was that 40% of consumers were paying more attention to what brands were doing than they were prior to the pandemic, and 6 out of 10 consumers stated that authenticity was far more important in the current climate.

So what do we mean by authenticity? The best way for us to explain this is to break down the Perceived Brand Authenticity Scale, which is a measurement framework developed by an international team of researchers. According to the scale, authenticity has four key components:

  • Continuity – the brand is faithful to itself

  • Credibility – the brand does not lie or deceive

  • Integrity – the brand shows caring and compassion

  • Symbolism – the brand inspires customers to be true to themselves

These are the fundamental building blocks of trust.
An authentic brand is one that shares your values, stays true to itself, and, above all, benefits the customer more than it benefits itself. 

Now imagine how fast someone’s brain determines all of that when they see a sponsored social post or stumble across your website. It literally takes seconds for someone to decide whether or not they like your brand. It’s a gut reaction, one that inspires them to want to learn more about what you offer (or not).

The knock-on effect of productive branding

The old adage “fake it ‘til you make it” doesn’t really apply in a modern context. There’s more visibility over us and our brands because of how ingrained social media is in every aspect of our lives. Both the pandemic and the rise of “fake news” culture only ignited a greater need for trust, which is likely to stick around. Put simply, if you lie your way to the top, people are likely to find out – and that’s bad for business. 

That’s not to say that honest branding is a new concept. Rather, consumers themselves have different priorities than they used to. There’s a greater emphasis on social purpose, and if you share the same values as a potential client, they’re more likely to work with you than someone who doesn’t.

Passion is also a huge part of branding. If you’re passionate about the same things as your clients and customers, it’s easier to connect with them on an emotional level.

Take Airbnb – a company that started out offering short-term accommodation and now shares a range of experiences and amenities for travelers and locals alike. Nothing sells an experience quite like a personal story, which is why they wanted the customer to be featured at the heart of their brand. In 2013, they decided to completely change their branding to ensure that it better conveyed their values. This is what they came up with:

Airbnb - authentic brand
Source: https://design.studio/work/airbnb

Immediately after their rebrand, Airbnb trended on Twitter, won a host of awards, and boosted their valuation to $29 billion above their closest competitor. This is because the new brand resonated with travelers – it put human stories at the heart of their offerings, and that struck an emotional chord with consumers.

What this example shows us is that an authentic brand is effective because it:

  • Breaks through all the noise;

  • Creates stronger connections;

  • Differentiates you from your competitors;

  • And generates long-term customer loyalty.

Our top tips for injecting more authenticity into your brand

Feel like your brand could use a bit of an authenticity boost? There are a few easy ways to embed more of yourself into your personal brand – and they don’t require hiring a designer and spending hours doing market research to see what does and doesn’t work.

1. Become a trusted expert

Why authenticity has never been more important for your personal brand

Networking and connections are a huge part of any portfolio pursuit. The best way to grow your network and develop your brand is to have a presence on social media. Become active on twitter, write posts on LinkedIn, share content on Facebook. The more you get your insights and experiences out there, the more authority and expertise you generate. Be active in your community. A great place to start is through our very own community here at The Portfolio Collective.

2. Be open and honest

Why authenticity has never been more important for your personal brand
©Jane O'Sullivan/The Portfolio Collective 2021

In that same HawkPartners study, honesty was rated as the most important brand characteristic, followed by consistency and transparency. What this illustrates is that people care more about businesses or professionals that take a stand and have a clear set of values. So don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and showcase your beliefs.

3. Always be consistent

Why authenticity has never been more important for your personal brand
©Jane O'Sullivan/The Portfolio Collective 2021

This is a big one to keep in mind. Your brand should be cohesive no matter what you’re doing – whether you’re posting online, building your website, or communicating with clients. Everything is a reflection on you and your service, so remember to keep it consistent.

Want to learn more about boosting your branding?

Our branding masterclass in collaboration with Strange Creative Studio provides the in-depth discovery you need to better understand the why that drives you – join us to deep dive into telling your story.

Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!

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