Typically, entertainers travel by limo to the red carpet at awards shows. Granger Smith is not normal. He insisted on traveling to the recent Country Music Awards red carpet in a Chevy Silverado. It’s authentically who he is: Smith has always owned a Silverado and it’s what his “customers” expect from him.
It reminded me of a similar incident 20 years earlier at the ACM awards. Alan Jackson walked the red carpet in jeans and a T-shirt. The show producers told Jackson to “play along” with a pre-recorded track. Jackson disagreed, so he had his drummer play along without drumsticks as a weird way of clueing in his audience. He walked away with the male vocalist of the year award and I would argue his authenticity is precisely why fans love him.
Neither Smith nor Jackson were afraid to make a statement. How about you? We should all strive to be more like them because we are all entertainers, delivering a performance every time we step on the stage that is our businesses. If your performance isn’t authentic, it won’t resonate.
Simply put, authenticity is staying true to who you are and what you do. You can’t “act” authentic, you can only be authentic. Authenticity is built around substance and purpose. As cowboys like to say, don’t be all hat and no cattle. In other words, don’t make claims you can’t back up. (Case in point: Volkswagen.)
In late 2009, Domino's launched a campaign admitting its pizza was lousy. The company then introduced a new recipe with a money back guarantee on every pizza. Domino's honesty and transparency resulted in 14.3 percent revenue growth in Q1 2010 and since then its stock has risen 400 percent.
Criticizing your own product is weird, but it’s also authentic and memorable. Why? Because it builds substance, and when you’re authentic it turns customers into fanatics.
Over the weekend, I saw authenticity in action when I attended Brett Eldredge’s Suits and Boots concert. Eldredge shared with the audience how nervous he was five years earlier at the same venue because it was his first major stadium tour when he opened for mega-star Tim McGraw. He told the sold out arena that he always appreciated how receptive and forgiving the crowd was back then even though he was so nervous he forgot the lyrics to his own song at one point. It was a dangerous thing to admit but fearlessly authentic and that got him a standing ovation between songs.
The audience witnessed a performance by someone who wasn’t trying to impress. He told stories of his career and that embarrassing moment five years earlier. He was on a stage but not a pedestal. There were no walls or filter. It was about connection.
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That experience allowed me some reflection on who I am and what I do. I encourage you to reflect on your authenticity as well.
No one understands and embraces this concept better than Jon Loba, executive vice-president of BBR Music Group. Loba shared with me that what has attracted BBR to the artists it has signed is authenticity and uniqueness.
“Many artists allow Nashville, their managers, agents or record labels to change them in the hopes of achieving greater fame and fortune," he says. "If they do morph into what they were coached to become, it usually serves to alienate them from their previously existing audience and their ‘new found success’ is usually short lived because it’s not coming from a place of authenticity."
It’s not just the music industry. In 2007, shortly after I began my career as a speaker and author I was told by a marketing and image consultant to ditch my jeans and boots for a suit. She said they looked weird and I should also change how I spoke and the appearance of my marketing collateral. If I didn’t fit in, I didn’t stand a chance of succeeding. I made the mistake of letting the industry change me.
It didn’t help. It actually hurt my results. I wound up having to compete for business because I wasn’t attracting business by simply being my authentic self. Shortly thereafter, I ditched the herd mentality and returned to working in a world of suits wearing my boots and made my website, marketing materials and message reflect my authentic self. When I shared my own struggles with my audience, not only did my message improve but their response did too. It's weird how that works.
Brett Eldredge’s Twitter profile reads “Step into the weirdness." That weirdness he refers to is actually authenticity. What makes authenticity weird is simply that so many brands don’t practice it. Step into your weirdness -- it’s your competitive advantage.
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