Authenticity is the foundation of all effective branding, marketing, or design efforts.  It creates the sticky trust that helps your audience identify, align, and connect to your message.  So what is authenticity and why does it really matter?  These two questions were central to my work with the Piedras Azules Cooperative (hope you can leverage this experience as you consider your own design efforts).

To begin with, what is authenticity?  This question came to mind while working with the cooperative members. We were brainstorming how they could use design as an element of effective and competitive positioning in a massive global coffee marketplace.  Specifically, how could Piedras Azules connect with an audience that is inundated with coffee, e.g. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Folgers, and so many others?  We needed to find a way to deeply connect —that way was authenticity.


Authenticity is generally considered to be accurately conveying who you are, in an honest and open way, to help others take an action (e.g. buy, invest, join, vote).  To do this requires three key understandings.  First, who are you and what do you believe in?  Second, how do you convey this (branding, identity, and system – all covered soon).  Third, is who to convey this to ( your audience - addressed in subsequent posts).  Essentially the formula is as follows: Authenticity = honesty about self + honesty about beliefs + effective messaging to others.

The Piedras Azules Cooperative is comprised of 22 members between the ages of 23 and 76 (with extended family members intimately involved).  These hardworking people conduct back-breaking work, almost every day, almost all year, and they draw their workforce from their local community (hundreds of hands help shape the path of each coffee bean). The immediate financial rewards are quite low. However, they are NOT a group to be pitied, they are a group of proud people who take care of one another, develop a fantastic product, and lay solid foundations for the next generation (more on these great people soon).  The challenge was then to find out which of these traits were to be selected to drive the branding exercise.

Make sure to clear through the background noise of what you think you need to say to arrive at who you really are.

The exercise began with a strong desire by many members of the cooperative to develop their own “Juan Valdez” equivalent.  While this image is certainly storied and well-recognized, we cautioned the members to avoid taking a “me-too” approach to developing their brand.  They had a unique story and offering that would be more authentically reflected through something different.  This recognition began a productive dialogue that ultimately resulted in a brand/logo that deeply reflected the efforts and purpose of the cooperative and helped them effectively convey this to their audience.  This brand/logo leveraged and amplified the Piedras Azules’ story so stay tuned to see what that is and why it was deeply authentic. 

Authenticity is critical.  Find and use your own voice to drive your branding/marketing/design efforts.  Make sure to clear through the background noise of what you think you need to say to arrive at who you really are.  This will produce significant enhancements in your efforts to reach and impact your target audiences.  Stay tuned.