Imagine visiting a doctor who only treats your symptoms, ignoring the underlying cause. Absurd, right? Yet, that’s how many brands approach marketing.
A true marketer asks uncomfortable questions that reveal hidden truths. They make clients (whether internal or agency clients) squirm with questions like:
- What’s the real reason you exist — not just what you sell?
- What’s your biggest fear about your brand?
- Who are your competitors that you genuinely admire and why?
Uncomfortable questions, unexpected answers: The marketer’s quest for meaning
These questions may be uncomfortable, but they reveal the truth and help connect a brand with its audience. Insights from these questions may include a forgotten founder’s story, a community passionate about sustainability or a quirky employee tradition that embodies the brand’s spirit.
Consider brands like Patagonia and Dove. They don’t just sell outdoor gear or beauty products. Instead, they advocate for important causes such as environmental activism and redefining beauty standards.
These brands don’t just focus on superficial marketing campaigns and promotions. They delve deep, embrace discomfort and connect with their core values. As a result, they have developed strong consumer loyalty and brand trust. Moreover, the people who work for these brands have a stake in their outcomes, believe they are there for the right reasons and can sleep at night.
Giving in to short-term pressures can harm a brand by diluting its identity, confusing consumers and ultimately reducing profitability. To prevent this, it is crucial to keep Wall Street, management and the desire for constant growth as the guiding factors.
Dig deeper: Building a brand strategy: Essentials for long-term success
Building a fortress takes time, deliberation and a steadfast commitment to the ‘why’
Companies and the individuals they employ need strong self-awareness, which comes from acknowledging, not hiding, our quirks. The most successful people don’t hide their true selves; they leverage themselves to create their own paths.
This isn’t about oversharing. It’s about strategic vulnerability. Let people see what makes you tick, what you stand for and what you’re working on. This transparency fosters trust, loyalty and a sense of partnership with your audience.
As a father to an autistic son, and a professor, I’ve been privileged to learn from diverse neurodiverse students. I realize the best outcomes often defy societal expectations. Depending on who you are and who you want to be, traditional environments with structured expectations may not set you up for success. They may even “punish” you for being true to yourself.
Stale and inflexible corporate cultures, bad bosses, recessions or cost-cutting don’t dictate your future. It’s not about catering to ego-blind companies or climbing the wrong ladder. True career satisfaction comes from taking control, harnessing your unique strengths and refusing to settle for soul-crushing environments. It’s about navigating strategically, learning from stumbles and saying “no” to anything that doesn’t resonate with your values and goals.
For brands, consumers smell insincerity a mile away. Authenticity means ditching glossy brochures and embracing transparency. Own up to mistakes, be honest about practices, stop greenwashing your mission and ensure you deliver on your specific promises. Focus on building genuine connections based on shared values and open communication.
Dig deeper: 7 tips for building brand identity
3 steps to authentic brand building
“Branding in Three Steps” is a methodology I developed, which is designed to be completed twice:
- First, for yourself, figuring out what matters to you and the promises you want to make to yourself, clients, friends and colleagues.
- Then, do the same for your company and role. This ensures your choices have clear criteria.
The three steps are identity, intention, and implementation.
This is the raw, messy core of who you are, woven from your values, passions and experiences. Mine, for instance, is a blend of radical candor, insatiable curiosity and a hunger for genuine collaboration.
This isn’t about crafting a marketable persona; it’s about peeling back the layers and uncovering the essence that fuels your fire.
Once you have clearly articulated who you are in a memorable way (meaning you can recite it on demand), it’s time to ask, “why?” What is your purpose? What legacy do you want to leave behind? Intention isn’t a vague ambition; it channels your identity into purposeful action.
My intention? To ignite authentic connections, challenge the status quo and build bridges between individuals and brands. It’s the driving force behind everything I do, from writing this article to crafting brand strategies to delivering a university lecture or keynote address.
Now, with a clear sense of self and purpose, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Implementation is the bridge between intention and impact.
For me, it means crafting movements (not just campaigns or ads) that spark honest conversations, building partnerships beyond transactions and constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
Think of it as a rebellion against the corporate treadmill, rejecting the one-size-fits-all model. This is about forging your own path and building a career and a brand that resonates with your soul. It’s about leaving a legacy far richer than just a quarterly report, built on connection, impact and genuine human value.
Uncovering your deeper purpose as a marketer
When your actions resonate with your core values, you transform from a cog in a machine to an engaged, influential contributor, whether as an employee or an entrepreneur.
After you apply this methodology to yourself, you will be better positioned to apply it to your brand, be it an entrepreneurial venture or a company that aligns or has the potential to align with your values. It would be a mistake to think that there is a place with everything figured out, a utopia that checks all boxes, because if it was all figured out, they wouldn’t need you and you wouldn’t learn or grow.
Profit is different from the destination. It’s a byproduct of a journey fueled by a deeper purpose. When you focus on building a brand that aligns with identity and intention, the profits naturally follow through consistent and memorable implementation.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.