Last weekend I was aimlessly scrolling through Twitter when I landed on a Tweet from Buzzfeed that questioned the authenticity of a brand I frequently support. Madewell is the sister company of the J.Crew empire. The tweet said, “How Madewell Bought And Sold My Family’s History.” Now I’m pretty familiar with this company, so I was really intrigued to see if this story actually had any substance to it or if it was just some random person looking for 15 minutes of fame. I’m talking to you, crazy Frozen lady.

The article was pretty enlightening. It turns out Madewell as a company today, is nothing like the company it was when it was founded by Julius Kivowitz almost 80 years ago. You can read the full article here. But this got me thinking about what makes a brand truly authentic. What does the term authentic even mean? My definition could be very different from yours. My definition tends to lean towards the traditional, dictionary definition; real or genuine, not copied or false. Roundpeg certainly fits the standard definition. We are real, genuine people who offer honest explanations and no bull-shit answers to our clients. Can your business say the same?

Have Your Core Values Changed?

Are the core values you created when you first started your company the same as the ones you have now? Does your business even have any core values? Do you need to change your core values? Take a step back and really look at them. Do they still accurately describe your business? Do they need need to change? If so, why? Have you lost or gained partners through the years? Do you still want to accomplish the same goals you did five years ago? Block out some time and brainstorm what you really want people to know about your business. You need to come up with clear bullet points that explain what makes your business different and better than your competitors.

Is Your Brand Consistent?

Inconsistency is the kiss of death for your business. When your brand is inconsistent, your customers won’t trust you and new prospects might be suspicious of working with you. Inconsistencies can pop up almost anywhere in your business. If your company is acting completely different with customers online than in person, you’ve got a real problem. Talk to your online community the same way you would to anyone who walks into your office. If you have different identities on multiple social networks, your website and in your email newsletter you’re going to look like you either have six different personalities (paging Sybil) or you are unprofessional and unorganized. The more consistent your brand is, the more trustworthy and confident you will look.

Do You Mean What You Say?

If you’re going to claim to be a clothing brand that originated in 1937 with a focus on denim and women’s fashion, you better back that up. In Madewell’s case they just used the “idea” or “persona” of the original company, but put their own spin on it. In no way shape or form has Madewell embodied the spirit of the old workwear company it started out as. They just took the logo, the name and date of origin and created their own identity. To me, that’s not authentic. Will I still shop there? Sure. Will I think a little differently about the company? Yeah. Don’t let your business fall into the same trap. Say what you mean and mean what you say. When you back up your core values with actions, your customers will take notice. Transparency is a real problem for most brands. They make claims they can’t prove which results in a lack of trust with customers. Give your customers evidence that your company is authentic and do not post misleading information about your business on the Internet, in your case studies or in your store.

Authenticity is important when marketing your business. Don’t be fake or transparent. Those were the types of people you hated in high school so don’t let your business get that kind of reputation. Be real and honest with your customers, employees and yourself. People like working with real businesses who are honest and open, not companies who are trying to be something they’re not.

We’ve talked a lot about understanding your brand in this article. If you’re interested in more brand building information and exercises, download our brand positioning worksheet: