What to believe? Brand authenticity first.
Updated: Oct 5
Fake news, seamless product placement, media scandals, manipulation, greenwashing... Half of the people around the globe don't trust businesses (source: Edelman Trust Barometer). Brands clearly need to re-evaluate their messaging strategies if they are to regain the public’s confidence. How to start?
What is brand authenticity?
Brand authenticity is a concept that is still poorly defined, despite a slew of analysis and opinions. Authenticity is a trendy marketing buzzword, but there's a good reason behind its popularity. Let's demystify the concept and try to figure out how to apply it to marketing strategy to make a measurable difference in the success of your messaging.
Brand authenticity means honesty.
There is already authenticity at work in every business - it is the set of core beliefs and values that drives the brand and the activity. Authenticity is the glass wall at the factory or office. Are you cool with what consumers will see when they look into your world? Are you excited to share it with them?
Already back in 2015, an Ipsos study commissioned by the 4A’s found that only 4 per cent of respondents believe the advertising industry behaves with integrity.
Start with defining your brand's role in the marketplace.
Begin with an honest evaluation of a brand’s role in the marketplace and a unification of this purpose with the brand’s message. To understand a brand’s purpose, look no further than the consumer needs it fills and the qualities that drive consumers to choose it over competitors. It is tempting to confuse purpose with the broader concept of social responsibility. Watch below a great example from P&G: Ariel Launches #SharetheLoad Campaign.
Focus on your product first.
Products are first and foremost the vehicles through which brands seek to make the world a better place. Their impact may not be earth-shattering, but the physical and psychological value they offer is central to their purpose and, while consumers would prefer brands to act ethically, they are unlikely to sacrifice quality for social responsibility.
Consistency is key to authenticity.
Brands that improve their products and services in a manner consistent with the tangible and perceived value they offer consumers are taking the first step toward authenticity. Brands need to curate their messaging in a way that is aligned with their purpose and with consumer perceptions. Today’s consumers expect their experience to be consistent across devices and platforms.
Consumer demand for product transparency.
A 2016 Label Insight study revealed that nearly all consumers are likely to be loyal to transparent brands, and 73 per cent are willing to pay more for transparency.
Explaining is good, showing is better.
Brands should also focus on showing, not just telling. While consumers were searching for Cyber Monday deals, outdoor-apparel retailer Patagonia kindly asks "you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else." Their message: "Cyber Monday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We're now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet.
Authenticity is a consumer-first mentality.
Brand authenticity is rooted in the overlap between what a brand does and what consumers want. It is an expression of how a brand transcends the pursuit of profit, whether by keeping customers informed about a product’s ingredients to enable healthy choices or by giving them more time to spend with friends and family through a simplification of their daily routine.
How to start?
1. Do, don't tell.
Authenticity should be something your company generates every day just by doing what it always does. You shouldn't have to make up stories about why what you do is special.
Create conversations around what you do - ask questions, and offer answers. Get people to live and breathe what you believe in, whether this is at an event or with a video or a crowdsourcing campaign. People love getting involved with people who share interests and beliefs.
3. Look for contradictions
Look for contradictions between your marketing messages and the reality of your business.
Do you say you're eco-friendly, but in reality, you support denim factories that pollute villages in developing countries? Today's active, engaged consumer is not OK with mismatches of this nature.
4. Live your values!
Let your personality shine. This may sound fluffy, but the tone and personality is key in creating a one-of-a-kind, truly-authentic brand.
5. Don't write copy that sounds like everyone else.
Infuse your marketing and messaging with a singular sense of character that makes it feel like a human and you'll create a much stronger connection with your customer.