What’s upstream goes downstream in brand identity

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Brand identity | 2 Comments


What do streams have to do with brand identity?

Streams go one way. Paddling against a current is exhausting and impossible to maintain either physically or metaphorically.

Anne Murrow Lindbergh nailed it:

“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.”

Whether you are authentic or not with your brand identity, it naturally “goes” downstream to your customer and becomes their perception of you.

Designers are your customer’s advocate and eventually find out what’s authentic

When first meeting with clients, I learn about their dreams, goals and beliefs. I hear about their desire to persuade their audience to act on something so they can thrive and profit. I’m in the same boat. Part of my job is to precheck for client’s authenticity so they are promoting something that is true.

Let’s see what authenticity isn’t

  • Pretending to be something you aren’t
  • Promising to do something you don’t do
  • Claiming you’re an expert when you aren’t
  • Ignoring your mistakes—not learning from customers or partners

Examples of authenticity in brand identity

  • Stating clearly and honestly what your brand’s promises are
  • Making sure your whole company lives and breathes the brand promise
  • Earning trust consistently by making good on promises and fixing mistakes
  • Operating your business on brand values and ethical standards

Experience is a good teacher of authenticity

Solo practitioners and small businesses can feel free when they are authentic and are not bothered with pretense. Honesty with yourself and your customers can make a difference. What a relief for a customer to have a promise fulfilled!

What’s the first step toward being authentic?

My team can help by sharing what we’ve learned about your business after a collaborative project (like a new website) is launched. During our collaboration, we get firsthand experience of your brand promises. The project can feel like a struggle against the current—or an easy downstream journey. We can also help you gather feedback from your clients, which is always informative.

Be true and authentic. It’s a much easier and fulfilling ride for both you and your customers with all your partners (like me) pulling for you.


  1. Teri Shelton
    August 1, 2014

    Great article, Barb! Thank you for sharing your insight.

    It is so true. Customers cannot be fooled. They can see right through any marketing you throw at them if it’s false. If you are true to your marketing word they won’t even notice the “marketing.” It’s just who you are as a business.

    If you don’t match up you will hear about it if you are paying attention. It sounds like silence and looks like trying but not buying, existing customers slowly/quietly leaving and, rarely, a complaint.

    • Barb Rowan
      August 1, 2014

      Well said—the key is “paying attention” not only to your customers, but having company “self-awareness.” Thanks for sharing your experience.


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