Saturday, October 10, 2009

Branding: Charisma vs. Authenticity or Charisma + Authenticity

This is a short follow-up to yesterday's post about President Obama and the Nobel Prize. I wanted to highlight two different foundations for a brand: Charisma and Authenticity.

Charisma is based much more on fostering an emotional connection to the brand than on tangible attributes. Take "hope" for example. Hope is emotionally charged and can be an amazing catalyst. The downside is that it generally causes blind followership and buy-in. This is not to say that fans and advocates in Obama's camp are lemmings. I am a supporter and fan. The enthusiasm just needs to be tempered.

Authenticity is based on promoting the best of what is...not what will be. When place branding Fresno, my colleague and I focused on the six pillars identified through research that are authentic to the region. It has been difficult to find many detractors to the brand. Authenticity is also much more behaviorally based. A brand built on an authentic foundation can cause people to actually move into action by doing the things that uphold the authentic pillars.

Both/And not Either/Or
The Nobel Prize was awarded (in my opinion) based on President Obama's charisma. His goal is to authentically work for peace. It must be a both/and approach. Focusing on one or the other is not sustainable.

Charisma can rally people, but authenticity is needed to provide more than just sizzle. Likewise, building a brand solely based on authenticity make sense intellectually, but needs an emotional component. For the Fresno Brand platform, we developed a brand vision: Be World Class. Be Fresno. This is an emotional plea because the region is not at his point yet. Just as Obama built a campaign based on the vision of hope and change because the country needed those thing to look forward to.

What brands do you admire, trust, follow, support?
Is it based on the sizzle of the steak (or both)?

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