The Quest for 'Whole-Brand' Authenticity

This article was originally published in the fall 2016 issue of Rotman Management Magazine.

IN A WORLD WHERE INDUSTRIES are being disrupted left and right, having a strong brand is no longer enough to compete. These days, companies must design their internal experience to authentically embody their external image.

That’s because, with greater access to information about how a company operates, why it claims to exist, and who works for it, the ability of any stakeholder to gauge brand authenticity — and inauthenticity — continues to grow. Take the example of Comcast, which, ironically, is in the business of connectivity — yet there are countless documented
cases of customers having an extremely painful experience when they attempt to connect with an actual person at the company. In short, connection is being sold externally, but the brand is not being embodied internally.

How does this happen? One reason is that most companies put far too much emphasis on the external experience of their brand, and far too little on how their intended brand is experienced by their own employees and other internal stakeholders. In his book, Zag, author and brand expert Marty Neumeier defines brand as, ‘a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company’. This is an important framework when considering brand authenticity, as it implies that a brand is a personal experience that exists within each individual who interacts with an organization — both internally and externally...

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