Authentic Branding 101: How to Build a Brand Strategy that Puts People First 

Brand-building is an elusive and complex concept to many business owners. So much so that it’s been diluted over time to mean logos and colors, minimized to be as easy as defining your niche or target audience, and simplified to a decision between ‘personal’ brand or ‘business’ brand.

But here’s the thing: When we think of brands in such a black and white way, we lose a lot of what makes branding work in the first place. Ultimately, we want a brand that people care about; one that makes people want to join in and be a part of something bigger. But how do we do it?

In today’s day and age, it’s not enough to simply have a cool aesthetic and a fun social media presence. People want to connect with and know you. Which means you need to have a strategy that puts people and relationships first.  

What is authentic branding?

Authentic branding (or human-first branding, as we like to call it at Gold Standard Brand Collective) is a genuine approach to building a business and brand. Rather than chasing trends or millionaire status, authentic brands place their focus on honesty and building relationships with their audience. 

At the heart of authentic brands is a desire for connection and impact. A human-first branding strategy is built around your values, vision, and the people you aim to support. This ultimately creates a brand that people are more likely to trust, love, and stay loyal to for a long time.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Better Brand Blueprint, your comprehensive guide to create a one-of-a-kind brand

Why human-first brands matter

In a 2017 Consumer Content Report, 86% of consumers say authenticity is an important factor when deciding what brands to support. This is especially true if you’re a service provider, solopreneur, personal brand, or any type of business where you are a key component toward your clients’ success. 

As the brand leader, you are a part of your customer’s story. Your time together is more than a simple transaction; you’re building a long-term relationship. And people won’t enter a long-term relationship with just anyone. By having an authentic brand strategy, you allow people to start building that relationship before they ever decide to work with you. Then, when they are ready to take the leap, they already know and trust you. So it becomes a really easy sales decision. 

Beyond that, human-first branding strategies can also help you stop feeling so lost and burned out in your business. If you have been attracting unaligned clients, making guesses in your business, and feeling unsure of your path and decisions…then a human-first brand strategy may be just what you need. 

At the core of an authentic, people-focused brand strategy is being more aligned to your own purpose and vision. This enables you to build a brand that you believe in, find confidence you’ve never felt before, and connect more quickly and meaningfully with your target audience. 

Benefits of an authentic brand strategy

People want to connect with people. So if you’re building a service-based or personal brand (ie. you are a core component of your business in some way), people want to know you before they make the decision to work with you. 

By having a people-focused brand strategy, you create a relatability that allows your audience to connect with your brand in the same way they would you — offering limitless growth and connection potential for your business. 

Here are three of the biggest ways that a human-first brand strategy can positively impact your business. 

It builds relationships and loyalty

At its core, businesses are essentially a relationship between a brand and a customer. And the better you can build those relationships, the more likely you are to build loyalty that will stand the test of time and catapult your business into growth. 

Where many brands go wrong is focusing on a surface-level relationship based on aesthetics or trends. These types of relationships will only last as long as the trends do (which, in today’s day and age, is mere seconds). 

But when you can build real, honest relationships based on values, passions, vision, and more — you are creating a movement. You are building something that like-minded people want to be a part of for the long haul. 

It invites people into a larger vision

Having a vision enables your business to stand for something bigger than making millions of dollars. Consumers want to know they are doing something valuable by investing their time, money, and attention into you — so give them something to strive for!

You undoubtedly have strong reasons for starting your business. Maybe you want to save the planet, see more women in leadership positions, or empower people to have more financial freedom. Whatever it is: human-first brands make this vision front and center, inviting people on that journey with you. It allows them to see and understand the larger motivations behind your business and play a role in making that a reality. 

It grows organically

Because people-focused brands are built on relationships rather than simple transactions, you are able to build a consumer base that starts to grow on its own through referrals and word of mouth. People love to talk about the things they love! And when they experience a true transformation or feel a real connection with you and your brand, they’ll never hesitate to shout about it from the rooftops. 

While it takes more time on the front-end to build this relationship-focused strategy, it pays off exponentially in the long-run. You’ll have built an audience who is willing to go the extra mile to see you succeed, and will purchase everything you create in the future.  

FREE DOWNLOAD: Your 35-page guide to building a compelling brand, from high-level strategies to tactical steps

What makes a brand authentic? 7 components of a human-first brand strategy

When it comes to building an authentic brand, there is not a clear roadmap. In part because, when you’re building something new and unique, you have to create your own path. But also because understanding yourself has to start with YOU.

And this can feel really scary. You’re navigating through uncharted waters, after all. But it can also be a really exciting process of self-discovery that leads you to a clearer understanding of how you can help people better understand themselves, too. 

So while there isn’t a clearly defined path for building your human-first strategy, there are a handful of things you can keep in mind as you’re creating your brand. And if you need support, Gold Standard Brand Collective is here to help with resources, accountability, and community. 

1. Don’t be afraid to evolve

Brands should never be stagnant. Just like people, brands should shift, adapt, and evolve over time as you and your audience grows. This is what will keep them around for the long-haul!

It’s easy to think that once you have a brand that works, you should never change anything for risk of it not working anymore. But in truth: if you don’t adapt, people will inevitably move on. So take the risk and don’t be afraid to evolve your brand as you learn more and gain more experience. 

2. Define success on your own terms

There are a lot of ways to build a successful brand and business. Just because someone else did it one way, doesn’t mean you have to follow their exact path. In fact, you shouldn’t! The comparison trap will only lead to stress and frustration. 

Instead, get to the root of what success looks like to you and use that as your North Star. For example, is success really a million dollars, or is it the freedom to not have to worry about money while working less? Is it being a well-known name, or is it having a community of people around you who are working toward a collective goal or vision?

3. Focus on the transformation

“Success” tends to be a really ambiguous goal that is hard to grasp and even harder to achieve. To maintain your people-first lens, it’s helpful to focus on the transformation you can create for your clients or audience. 

In the day to day, you are having a much deeper and more wide-reaching impact by placing emphasis on the individual people you are working with. And when you can anchor yourself here, you start to focus less on what others’ are doing and more on the impact you are making. 

4. Dig deeper than demographics

While “niching down” is common branding advice, you need to be careful about how exactly you are going about this. Most often, people tend to specify their audience as something like, “female lifestyle photographers in Denver between the ages of 25-35.” And that feels really specific, but there are so many different types of people in that niche with varying needs, challenges, and experiences — not all of which you are probably best equipped to solve. 

Instead, remember that the best relationships are 50/50. Focus on the ways in which your strengths are uniquely able to solve the specific needs of a certain audience, and build from there. So worry less about what group or type of person you want to target, and more about how your experiences, knowledge, and values can help people who have been through similar situations. 

5. Don’t try and be for everyone

Brands that try to be everything for everyone only end up being nothing for no one. Trying to serve anyone will only cause you to lack focus and personality. And people don’t connect to that. 

Instead, focus on how you can be everything for one single person. This person can even be you from a few months ago, before you knew what you know now. In doing this, our brands can become much more personal and granular, unlocking uniqueness in new and exciting ways.

How to build your human-first brand

Gold Standard Brand Collective as an intentional and supportive space for brand leaders to get the resources, accountability, and support they need to create one-of-a-kind brands that change the world. We’re on a mission to propel up-and-coming founders into the next stage of growth with a solid brand foundation underneath them — and would love for you to join us. 

All Gold Standard Brand Collective members are passion pursuers, deep feelers, and visionaries driven by impact and purpose. Together, this community is rewriting the rules and setting a new standard for what branding and entrepreneurship can look like. 

Join us inside the community and get the resources, support, and accountability you need to create your human-first brand.