Brand Strategist Michelle Garside Reveals the Secret for Building Successful, Standout Brands That People Love to Follow, Buy, and Recommend

Published on October 9, 2019

Citing consumer trends that indicate “a return to realness,” creative agencies are advising clients to jettison their marketing hype, get real, and make human connections with their audience.

In a world fed up with “fake news” and Photoshopped selfies, an astounding 91% of consumers say they want to buy from an authentic brand, according to an article in Adweek. On a similar note, data from Zimmer Communications reveals that 94% of consumers say they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency. Zimmer also reports than an astonishing 65% of people feel an emotional connection to a brand because they feel it cares about “people like them.”

The difficulty, according to experts, is that people have more choices than ever before. Overwhelmed by choice, research shows that people use feelings, rather than logic, to cut through the advertising clutter. People choose brands, not because of slick marketing, but simply because the brand satisfied their needs while making them feel good.

“It is the Paradox of Choice,” says Michelle Garside, co-founder of Soul Camp Creative, who has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Travel and Leisure, Fitness, Women’s Health, Good Morning America, ABC News, Parents, Fortune, Inc., and Forbes. “Having lots of choices is supposed to empower consumers, but when you go into a supermarket and there are a million cans of tuna, how do you know which one to choose? It turns out that having lots of choices makes people feel overwhelmed.”

Prior to launching Soul Camp Creative, Garside helped build brands for some of the largest companies in the world, including Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Novo-Nordisk & GlaxoSmithKline. She believes building a brand that stands out, feels authentic, and touches the heart of the consumer is essential to slicing through all the marketing and advertising noise. “Branding is how you make someone feel about you at every touchpoint,” Garside says. “It’s being meaningful to people in a way that doesn’t feel icky, but authentic and aligned with who you are and what your brand mission is. This lets you really touch the heart of the consumer you’re looking to connect with.”

While business owners may be tempted to think of branding only in terms of designing a new logo, Garside cautions that authentic branding is much more.  “Of course, your website, logo, and colors are all part of your brand, but so are the messages you put forth, the photos you use, your social media voice, your unique style – all of it matters,” Garside says.  “Beyond that, it is the feeling, the essence, that people experience when they touch who you really are as a business, as a brand, as a human being.”

Before working with clients on their marketing collateral or website design, Garside and her Soul Camp team take them through a self-discovery process to help them build authenticity into their brand from the ground up.

First: Get to the root. Garside recommends reaching in before reaching out. “Who are you? Who do people think you are, based on what you’ve shared about yourself? We’re all longing to feel part of something,” Garside explains. “Sharing your story, the hurdles you’ve jumped over, all of that matters because people want to feel connected to the people they follow or buy from.”

Next: Get vulnerable. Instead of projecting a false image that is impossible to maintain, Garside invites her clients to get curious, experiment with vulnerability, and see how that feels instead. For personal brands, she suggests sharing both positive and negative life experiences framed in the context of important lessons learned. “Do it with the mindset of how to present this in a way that helps people without leaving them burdened with negative emotions,” Garside says. “Get vulnerable with your audience. Let them into your life. Let them into your world.”

Then: Get real. According to Garside, a lot of people make the mistake of trying to portray themselves in the way they think they should be, rather than being completely true to who they really are. “Be real, honest, and authentic,” Garside recommends, “because that’s where true connection happens.”

Clients who implement these shifts at Garside’s direction say the results speak for themselves. “I was longing to create a brand and place where people could really feel the essence of who I am,” says author and transformational leadership coach Julie Santiago, a Soul Camp client. “Because of the brand that they created for me, I now run a multiple 6-figure business, I have a large online community of over 40,000 amazing people, I recently published my first book, and I am truly doing the work I came here to do.”

Garside believes the success of her approach reflects a growing consumer movement she calls “a return to realness.”

“I think all of us are so craving realness, we’re so craving connection, we’re so craving authenticity,” Garside says. “The world is chaotic enough. When it comes to the people that you’re following on social or the brands that you’re purchasing, you want to feel good, you want to feel safe with them, you want to trust them. And so much of that depends on the person standing courageously in the face of authenticity and showing themselves to their consumer.”

Michelle Garside is the co-founder of Soul Camp Creative, a full-service marketing agency devoted to working with conscious companies and brands that are positively impacting the planet. Soul Camp’s clients include coaches, teachers, healers, wellness practitioners, retreat centers, wellness facilities and any purpose-driven organization looking to empower people to live happier, healthier lives.

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