Brand Authenticity, Originality and Believability


By Emmanuel Obeta

Another set of factors that are contributory to the success and failures of brands are its authenticity, believability and originality. In a nutshell, how credible and believable are your brand propositions, claims and positions?

For instance is there any real positive correlationship between the usage of Nike shirts etc and actual sports performance? If you are not a superstar or a high performing athlete will the usage of Nike products suddenly boost or enhance your ability to perform or deliver results in your chosen field of sports? Will you suddenly obtain or acquire some super power abilities to perform simply by the utilization of these sports wears? I guess we all know the answers.

The real issue is therefore how has Nike been able to own and be associated with superlative and extremely successful performance in the field of sports such that a lot of people will suddenly feel good, distinguished or classy by adorning any one of these sports wear in the field of play? Definitely not an accident but through a deliberate process of building their brand, associating it and sponsorship of superstars who repeatedly endorse and wear their brands such that the superlative performance of these sportsmen and women gets transferred and positively associated with the clothes that they wear.

Nike over the years perfected the art of sponsorships and endorsements to the point that unique Nike sub brands were created for these extremely successful sportsmen and women. Ranging from Jordan to Federer (before now) to Rafa Nadal etc. which each of them having specially custom made shoes branded for them which are later sold in the market at great profits. In the words of the popular advert “everyone wants to be a Tiger”.

The flip side of this is also the “one hundred disease killer drug” – “gbogbomishe” which are prominently being peddled in Lagos ‘molue’ buses and at other fora. These drugs are presented as cures to all imaginable diseases – headache, back pain, fever, malaria, dysentery etc etc. At the end of the day which one of these propositions are actually believed and trusted by the customers?

Believability therefore refers to the quality of being credible, convincing or realistic. In making claims for your brands, the first thing to ask or find out is how credible are these claims. In order to be credible there must have been an antecedent of performance or a history or background of validated or proven performance. Claims no matter how beautiful, poetic or pleasant to the ears CANNOT stand-alone. They must be rested or dependent on a proven foundation of performance or proof.

The second question to ask is who or how do you intend to provide these background or history of performance. The credibility, integrity and personality or weight of the source on which you want to depend on to provide this attestation is key. The source or style or format of providing this testimony is also dependent on the industry or sector in which you operate and what are the appealing, interesting or credible authorities in those areas.

Every field has a set of credible or reference sources, which are continuously being looked up, and their statements or words are like holy grails in those areas. For instance if you are a lover of the grand prix races, any claim or statement by Michael Schumacher will be regarded as incontrovertible because he has proven to be a huge success with so many laurels in his racing. Every field or sector has their own version of Michael Schumachers and any endorsement by them will put paid to any controversy about the quality claims of such brand offerings. Anthony Joshua for instance is an ambassador for Range Rover etc.

The challenge therefor is to find the most credible sources that appeals or connects with your customer base and to build your brand claims and offering through the instrumentality of those sources, statistics and facts such that the claims of your brand can become more credible or believable. Any effort to build your brand claim on shadows as opposed to substance will definitely lead to brand failures.

You will also need to ascertain the authenticity of these claims. A brand claim can be believable but not authentic. Authenticity simply means acting in ways that that are consistent or show your true self and how you feel or expressing your whole self genuinely without any element of make believe, forming or falsehood or trying to be who you are not. To succeed in being authentic, you first have to know who your true self actually is.

A good example of lack of authenticity is KIA Optima. Kia a low cost, low budget brand positioning one of its brands within the luxurious sector of the market. If one wanted a luxurious brand he will with all due apologies not go for KIA in the first place. Several luxurious brands exist that can better meet that need other than KIA Optima. Volvo as a brand cannot also position itself on the basis of speed. The key essence of Volvo is safety and so speed cannot be compatible at the same time with Volvo’s brand essence but for a brand like Mercedes or BMW that prides itself in very high performance speed will be a very credible and authentic part of it claims. Authenticity can also be an extension of believability.

To be authentic therefore the brand has to be true to itself in all its claims and its propositions. If the brand is not clear about who it is or what it stands for it will bring up a lot confusing and inauthentic claims and positions. This will create a lot of disconcerting views and dispositions in the minds of the customers such that they will be confused as to what the brand really stands for thereby abandoning it, which will lead to a huge failure for the brand.

A third dimension of the brand’s proposition that can lead to a failure or success for the brand is its originality. Authenticity means being real or true to yourself whereas originality refers to being the first person to make such claims or proposition. Originality also means being one of a kind or having existed in the same form from the beginning. Being original also means that you are not a copycat and that in actual fact there is no other brand like you in the market. It also alludes to your difference and irreplaceability in the market place. You are evolving or developing along your own chosen lines of progress and not trying to be another brand or be like another brand, rather you are being true to yourself.

Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola despite being carbonated drinks have pursued several different and original pathways to the development of their brands. Coca Cola came out with claims and propositions of being the Real thing; Coca Coca is it. Pepsi cola on the other hand came out with propositions as refreshing and invigorating, a fine bracer before a race; why take less when Pepsi is the best; more bounce to the ounce and then the Pepsi Generation; Choice for a new generation and a generation ahead.

The key factor being that none sought to copy or imitate the other. Differentiation along your originally chosen direction is the key to developing a brand. When you lose sight of your originality or what actually differentiates or makes you different, you will lose the essence of your brand and will subsequently fail as a brand.

*Emmanuel Obeta is a Brands & Marketing Consultant with Directorate Level experience across FMCG, Banking and Public Service ( ; +2348139322773)