How can authenticity build brand equity?

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Excerpted from The Authentic Brand Book

It used to be that people primarily evaluated products on the basis of price, but this has indisputably changed. Only a few of the companies that we have profiled compete on cost. In fact, many charge more than their competitors. The lesson here is that if you build an authentic brand, there is no reason a business can’t charge $1,200 for a handbag, $750 for a vacuum cleaner, $6 for a one-pound bag of cookies, or $4 for a cup of coffee.

Just as today’s consumers choose products and services for the value they offer, they also consider the values of the person or the company behind the brand—they are looking for authenticity. Simon Sinek, an intuitive marketing consultant and the founder of Sinek Partners, says, “People are loyal to companies that offer more than just products and their associated benefits. They buy a lifestyle, purpose, cause or belief.” The entrepreneurs featured here have successfully connected at this level, offering genuine and original customer experiences — and stand for a lifestyle, cause or belief system.

All of the business leaders and brand-builders in this book speak to their customers’ intelligence, and they are about more than just commerce. For example, Ben & Jerry have worked actively to make the world a better place. Wally Amos has helped tens of thousands of adults to read. Bobbi Brown donates palette-loads of products to women in need. Gary Hirshberg brings healthy snack foods into schools and works toward improving the environment. More than price or the superficial elements of the product, each of these brands resonates with the customer. There is a feeling associated with these brands—something real and substantial. It is authenticity.

Today, many successful and popular brands are created without an advertising budget. How is this done? How can a company create a dedicated brand following? Can a company be steered strictly by consumer-centric or customer-driven needs? What brand or corporate characteristics command our attention and why—and how does emotion come into play when creating strong customer connectivity? How are “sticky” brands born and sustained? How do an entrepreneur’s leadership traits and styles shape the building of a brand? What are some of the key ingredients needed to build brand equity such that when the business is sold, it demands top dollar—selling for a multiple of revenues that ignores all logical accounting principals or formulas?

I contemplated each of these questions before I spoke with these entrepreneurs. Therefore, this book evolved into an examination of how contrasting, highly successful business leaders have built devoted brand followings through non-traditional marketing and management practices.

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