What the American Primaries Can Teach Us About Personal Brands
Last Monday’s Iowa caucus marked the start of one of the most interesting political seasons in recent politics. Not only are the races close, but these primaries also feature two candidates who are some of the most unique figures to ever arrive on the American political scene.
Though they didn’t win Iowa, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, respective Republican and Democratic candidates, both came in second and are garnering lots of attention. Originally both written off as long-shot candidates, they have become forces to contend with.
Authenticity Goes a Long Way
While at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, both Trump and Sanders have a massive base of support with some of the most vocal and passionate followers of any campaign. And though their unconventional politics should not be discounted, their surge in the polls may be better explained by their stolid authenticity and personal brands.
Trump is brash and brazenly speaks his mind. There’s nothing false about him. He says what he’s thinking and sticks by his ideas. And Sanders, while on the other end of the political spectrum, is perhaps every bit as unorthodox when it comes to his ideas about healthcare and education.
Politics often consists of carefully crafted rhetoric and orchestrated public appearances, so the authenticity that Trump and Sanders are displaying is a bit of a novelty. It separates them from the rest of the candidates. Their views may be more extreme, but we can tell that they mean what they say and trust that they’ll stick by it. Huge swaths of the American electorate are drawn to them because they recognize their authenticity.
When a person is shrouded in talking points and staged appearances, as is the case with most politicians, they often appear inauthentic and therefore untrustworthy. When we think a person is lying to us, we want nothing more to do with them.
People are drawn to authenticity: we like to understand exactly who and what we’re dealing with, and we never want to feel like we’re being manipulated. And as much as this is true for politics, it is even more pronounced in networking.
If we like and trust someone, we’re more inclined to foster a relationship. If we think they’re insincere, we’ll probably stay away. It’s a basic notion, but we base decisions around our instincts more than we realize.
Authenticity is Key to Building a Personal Brand
Being trustworthy is perhaps the most important aspect of our personal brand. Trust can be one of the easiest things to gain, but also one of the easiest to lose. Maintaining values and embracing uniqueness, as Trump and Sanders have done, is one of the most surefire ways to build a respected brand with a loyal following.
When people detect inauthenticity, the value of a brand can drop fast. Car manufacture Volkswagen experienced this last year when news broke that the company had falsified its emission tests. Within days, the solid Volkswagen brand, which took decades to build, had lost its trusted status in the eyes of many consumers.
It’s Always Personal
When it comes down to it, growing a brand is always personal. Trump and Sanders have garnered so much support because people feel like they know them. People like them. Authenticity leads to trust, which is necessary to sustain any personal brand or relationship. This is true for politicians, companies, or friends and business partners.
Trump and Sanders may not win their respective nominations, but they have an incredible network of motivated, passionate people who will stick by them throughout the primaries. Their supporters are fiercely loyal to their campaigns. Their authenticity has gained them the kind of following that is coveted by politicians, business leaders and networkers. And when it comes down to it, that achievement is a kind of success in its own right.
What else is important when building a personal brand? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!