Over the last several years, a new term emerged in marketing — brand authenticity. With it, you may have noticed a recent shift in the way consumers are interacting with brands they love. They are asking more questions, trusting less quickly and demanding more transparency. In the end, they are judging businesses by their brand authenticity. So what is brand authenticity, anyway?
Although you’d be hard-pressed to find one true definition, brand authenticity typically describes the genuine “realness” of a brand, often putting product and service aside. Although those too can be factored into the equation, brand authenticity is bigger than that. It represents a business’s ability to connect their customer to its mission and invoke trust.
So why be authentic? Does it truly matter in business? Studies show yes. According to a recent survey conducted by Stackla, 86 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support. With an overwhelming amount of our audience looking for more transparency from brands, how can we deliver? We’ve put together five core principles that can help you become a more authentic brand. This isn’t a definitive list by any means; these are just a few ideas we think you shouldn’t overlook:
Don’t waiver on your values
When you started your business, you had a purpose and a set of intrinsic values. Don’t lose sight of these. Your core values are what keep you authentic. At the same time, don’t keep your values to yourself. Promote them and help your customers understand them. Southwest Airlines is a great example of a brand that lets its values drive their business. Their customer-centric mission is instilled into their culture, employees and advertising. Customers know that their satisfaction is at the heart of Southwest’s mission and it’s backed up by low-cost fares and friendly service.
Actions speak louder than words
At Duft Watterson, one of our taglines is, “Show, don’t tell.” In the case of brand authenticity, what we mean is don’t just tout being authentic — live it. Beyond promoting your values on your website and other channels, make sure you are living up to them. For some brands, their values directly correlate to their product so living their mission is directly tied to the products they create. Brands like Everlane believe in ethical factory conditions and radical transparency on the cost of goods and live out their mission by giving customers the full breakdown of the costs to make their products, including their markup. For other brands, this is not as simple but still possible. Ben and Jerry’s, for example, has high standards for their ice cream, but also for their business. Aside from a product mission, they also have social and economic missions to grow sustainably. They consistently develop innovative ways to make the world a better place, outside of selling really delicious ice cream.
Create ambassadors, not just customers
According to a national survey, 37% of American customers said it takes five purchases before you become brand loyal. So creating campaigns, programs and messaging centered around getting your customers to keep coming back should be at the forefront of your marketing strategy. At a time when audiences are growing less trusting of brands overall, turning your customers into brand advocates has never been more important.
Always be the first to apologize
We all fall short from time to time, but the true test of an authentic brand is how they handle the aftermath. When Chipotle, an already trusted brand among consumers, had a foodborne illness outbreak in 2015 that affected over 200 customers, they took out ads in 61 newspapers across the United States to publicly apologize. They owned it and took action, giving customers a reason to continue to trust the brand.
Change is inevitable and brands have to evolve along with their audiences. Although it is hard to remember a time when Netflix wasn’t the go-to online streaming service it is today, it once began as a DVD rental service. As online streaming services became more in demand, Netflix shifted its business offerings to deliver more of what customers wanted. In the end, Netflix is an excellent example of how a brand’s ability to reinvent itself and embrace change can foster more brand authenticity. As consumers see brands as being more willing to listen to the desires of their audience, the more loyal they will be.
As Forbes contributor Michael Fertik put it, “When a brand is authentic, consumers know it, appreciate it and prioritize their spending accordingly.” At the end of the day, the greater your audience perceives your brand authenticity, the more lasting your impression will be. Whether you’re launching a new business or looking to revitalize an old one, we believe these principles will help you foster brand authenticity and form new bonds with your audience.
Want some help nailing down your brand identity and values? Feel free to contact us.