Recently, the stars aligned for me, and I was actually able to A) sneak out of the office for nearly a full day and B) spend that time filling my brain with inspiration at the Future M conference here in Boston.
I plan to write a few posts about my experience at the conference, but for now, I’ll start where I started: the keynote address from the one and only Martha Stewart.
Martha’s speech began as only Martha’s speech could – with her making freshly squeezed green juice on stage, because, as she put it, that is how she starts every day. Though she may not have meant her juicing to be symbolic, Martha was still just being Martha – even among hundreds of people waiting to hear her talk. And that was one of the key lessons I took away from her speech: the Martha Stewart brand is, if nothing else, 100% authentic. In leading the charge, Martha has always stayed true to building her empire with things done her way, even when it could have cost her relationships with companies like Kmart and Time Inc.
LESSON #1 FROM MARTHA STEWART: JUST BE YOU. FIND THE AUTHENTIC CORE OF YOUR BRAND AND STAY TRUE TO IT.
The second lesson I learned came from an almost-passing statement she made as she shared beautiful images of freshly picked orchids, pumpkins and blueberries that graced the cover of her magazines over the years. She said that the reason she was able to continue to keep pushing out fresh and interesting content is because she always stays curious – and, then, she looked to the audience and advised us to likewise always “stay curious.” I loved this not only because I am a strategic planner and my job is all about curiosity but also because inserting curiosity into your brand is critical if you want to remain authentic.
LESSON #2 FROM MARTHA STEWART: STAY CURIOUS.
Let me elaborate on that second point.
The challenge many brands face – in trying to remain authentic – is that authenticity can sometimes equate to remaining static and unchanging. It might mean you say things like, “This is how we have always done things, and we aren’t going to change now.” But curiosity is critical to helping you evolve your brand. Being authentic without being curious about the world in which your brand lives can result in authenticity equating to old and stale versus classic and fresh – like the Martha Stewart brand. For Martha, that curiosity meant seeking new mediums beyond print as the culture changed. It meant creating the Martha Stewart Home sub-brand with affordable products available at JCPenney while continuing to build the very aspirational Martha Stewart Living brand, too.
In short, authenticity is critical in building the foundations of your brand. You have to remain true to your core values, but don’t be afraid to be curious. It just might help you build an empire like Martha’s.