branding with authenticityCertain brands have woven authenticity into their products, delivery and message. These brands have a distinctive look and feel about them that says, “This is the original,” or “This is the genuine article.” Over time, they have carved out a place at the apex of their category.

A couple times a week we enjoy John McCann’s steel cut Irish oatmeal. It comes in a white tin can with a relatively wide diameter and a resealable golden lid that you have to pry off like an expensive coffee. The entire label is emblazoned with gold medals for quality dating back to the eighteen hundreds. When you see the brand name, it’s in gold and part of an award. We love this package because it screams authenticity – and the oatmeal is very good, as well.

Whether it’s Cartier, Levi Strauss or Mercedes, some brands enjoy a reputation for authenticity. In the minds of their market, they are the ones to beat. They have typically topped out the price point in their category and have conditioned their buyers to expect to pay more for their superior quality. Their legitimacy is based on an established history of consistent top performance. They have become the benchmark against which all others are rated.

How can today’s brand builders benefit from the elements of authenticity which have elevated the perception of these brands? Here are the 7 essentials of brand authenticity from which you can borrow:

1. Top Quality.

Deliver state of the art excellence. Use durable materials and craftsmanship that will stand the test of time. The endurance and lifespan of your product justifies your price point.

2. Narrow Niche.

Don’t try to be all things to all people. If you can dominate a specific market segment, those who want and need the product will pay more for the highest quality. Stay focused on what you do best.

3. Positioning.

Place your product at the zenith of its category, even if you have to create the category. It’s easier to be the expert when you are the first to discover a new market or define an existing market in a new way.

4. Message.

Third party validation can give you the credibility you need to substantiate your claims. Seek endorsements from the kind of celebrities your market wants to emulate. Incorporate your awards right into your packaging.

5. Vigilance.

Protect your reputation with excellent customer service. Stay on alert for issues in production, distribution, or the marketplace that can undermine your status. Correct them immediately.

6. Perception of Value.

The way your products are presented and appear in advertising and in your packaging should readily communicate the quality and value of your products. 

7. Dependability.

Resist the temptation to produce a product that is below your original standards, just to capitalize on your good name. That will tarnish the reputation of quality you have spent years to develop.

Authenticity is not a destination, it is a journey. It takes time to build your credibility and demonstrate your loyalty to the highest standards. When you are the best, remember that your competition wants to outdo you. So don’t give them an opportunity by trying to save a buck with inferior products. Honor your brand promise and you will benefit from a loyal and ever-increasing following.

Authentic branding is wrapped in your product’s quality and history. The market is always looking for the Real McCoy.








Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact