I don’t know if people are sick of talking about COVID, but it was/is a crisis that taught us a lot, and there’s still lots more to unpack. Several months ago we talked about crisis-proofing your brand and building emotional depth through the use of sound. Something that I don’t think has been discussed enough is the importance of authenticity in marketing.
Audio branding (and branding in general) is about building a relationship with the public. You want to build trust. You do that by being your most genuine and authentic self, and doing it consistently. That’s true in marketing and it’s true in life. But a lot of businesses, especially on the local level, are often tempted to go too far. They want to be loud. This is fine if that’s who you are, but most businesses aren’t, and the ones that aren’t are starting to see the consequences.
A colleague and I were recently discussing car dealerships. Many of them are notorious for producing outrageous, inauthentic ads. What’s worse, they only seem to advertise when there’s a sale. We gotta get rid of the (this year)s to make room for the (next year)s. Colleague and friend Rob Howard elaborates on this in his book Fix: Break The Addictions That Are Killing Brands. He and his co-writers liken this type of marketing to a junkie trying to get their next fix. They’ve become dependent on the highs from the spikes in sales that occur during promotions. This often leads to inauthentic branding. Instead of building a relationship through authenticity, they’re dialing everything up to eleven. And many have been doing this for decades.
You should have been the everyman, but decided to be the jester instead.
So flash forward to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly these same car dealers are faced with supply issues. They can’t have the big sale because there’s little to sell, and people are going elsewhere. Now they’re asking themselves Where’s the loyalty? We support the community. We sponsor children’s sports teams. That may be so, but that’s not the image you’ve built. Think of brand archetypes. You should have been the everyman, but decided to be the jester instead.
Nothing goes deeper than audio branding. Audio branding is all about immersion and congruency. Your voice, music, writing style, and personality tell people all they need to know about you. If you want to be authentic, you need to get these things right, and they need to be consistent. Sometimes you match the right brand with the right audio branding professional and they just knock it out of the park. You find the right tone, you build the right strategy, you produce the right assets, and everything just clicks. But sometimes business owners and brand leaders start to second guess themselves. They don’t think it’s loud enough or exciting enough. The voice should be more aggressive. The music should be more exciting. When this happens, I now remind them of the wacky car salesman who’s wondering why no one’s showing up when there’s no sale.
Good relationships aren’t built by being loud and obnoxious. That’s the type of behaviour you might expect by fly-by-night shysters. Good business people realize that good business relationships are long-term. Good relationships in general are built when you’re authentic, and relationships are strongest when people know the real you. When people aren’t themselves, relationships become superficial. Brands work the same way.