If you’ve been in the industry long enough, then you must already know the weight placed on “brand authenticity” not only by brands but by consumers as well. It’s the hottest marketing buzzword right now, thanks in part to the younger generation who demands it from everyone they make business with. Millennials, who have huge purchasing power, especially resonate with companies and organisations that they deem to be authentic.
With the word being thrown around so much nowadays, you’d expect people to know exactly what it means. Including how to be or appear as an authentic company. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
So, what exactly is “authenticity”? And is there a perfect formula to achieving authenticity that your brand should be following?
The Truth in “Being Truthful”: “Honest” Marketing
Here’s a short storytime: an ex-girlfriend once tried to surprise me for Valentine’s day with flowers and chocolates, which were supposed to be delivered to our office on the same day she ordered them. But things didn’t go as expected. The flower store blamed it on their website crashing (which shows that website maintenance is crucial to doing good business), the unexpected onslaught of orders for that day and even “rowdy” delivery riders who supposedly went rogue with some of the orders. Long story short, they failed to deliver—literally and figuratively.
And coordinating with them about the refund is even worst, not exactly what you’d expect from a brand who promised, on their website, to make ordering flowers “as convenient for you as possible”. That experience was awful enough for us that we’ve never made business with them again.
Which brings us to the point of this section: if you want to seem genuine, you have to be truthful to your customers. Be honest about what you do and then do it consistently across all platforms. But sure, it is so easy to say that you’re being honest, but communicating that to your consumers may be harder than you think. So how do you do it without your attempts looking forced? How do you eventually make marketing “truthful” and consequently, “authentic” for your audience?
Nowadays, you can no longer make unbacked claims about your products. The days of superfluous, exaggerated marketing is over. But although difficult, it is possible for marketing to be authentic.
When Sherpa Marketing asked around about what “(Brand) Authenticity” means to people, the responses they got included the terms ‘honest’, ‘original’, ‘real’ and ‘genuine’. Authenticity is basically all these abstract things combined—the challenge, however, is on translating these into actual, actionable strategies.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Be clear about your core brand or organisational values
- Be consistent across all platforms
- Communicate with prospects & consumers
- Be real & genuine
- Hire good marketers & pr people
How To Be An Authentic Brand
Be clear about your core brand or organisational values
Think of values as the “soul” of your brand. A brand has to have a set of core values that guide or motivate the whole organisation; a moral compass that keeps everyone’s behaviour in check. Values are intangible things that show you’re standing up for something, a cause possibly bigger than your organisation. These values illustrate ethical principles that carry over to different levels within the whole organisation; a cohesive thing that creates a strong company culture.
But how are values created? Well, values are, first of all, determined by business owners. It is later on disseminated to everyone in the company. Because brand values are a strong invisible guiding force, it’s key to differentiating your brand from others. Brand values influence a lot of things about your company—the development of your brand voice, how you market your product or service to people and even how people will remember your brand. So, these values must also be visible to your audience through your marketing initiatives.
Be consistent across all platforms
Inconsistency kills a business. It may sound like a rash assertion but one thing we’re certain about is that inconsistency breeds mistrust and mistrust discourages consumers from supporting a brand. After all, who would want to do business with brands they don’t trust, right? But it is so easy to lose track of brand voice because of how fast and diverse everything moves nowadays.
So, how do we make sure we’re consistent?
One thing you can do is create a brand playbook. A brand playbook or “branding guide” ensures uniformity. It makes branding and design consistent anywhere the audience finds your brand. The trick is in ensuring that you’re using the same voice and tone everywhere. Are you formal? Bubbly? Conversational? Whatever brand voice you have, your consumers and prospects must always “hear” that. And their experience—the most important thing to a customer—must be consistent wherever they talk to you. So, make sure you hammer this voice and personality into your employees as they are your brand’s best champions—the frontliners who communicate your brand and what you stand for to consumers.
Communicate with prospects & consumers
Now that your brand voice is clear to you, use that voice to inform, discuss, and reach out to customers. Make communicating with your brand a breeze for your consumers by giving them an option to talk with you about things related to your business—yes, including (and most especially) their pain points. You can do this with the right social media marketing strategies in place.
Our search for authenticity led us to a simple litmus test for determining a brand’s level of authenticity: when discovering a new brand or observing an old one, go to their About page or bio and see if they successfully embody what’s written there. While the About page is not everything, it does tell you a lot about what they stand for and what brands strive to achieve—for themselves and for their customers
Additionally, you can look to community marketing  to keep your consumers engaged, as it’s also a brand’s way of communicating with people and making them loyal brand ambassadors of your brand.
Communicating with consumers helps cultivate brand authenticity because a moving, talking brand would appear more authentic to people. So share news, consult your consumers, ask for their opinions and give them an option to give you feedback.
Be real & genuine
As mentioned earlier, authenticity is often connected with the terms “real” and “genuine”. As real as you are to yourself and your team, it is more important that this realness transcends to your consumers and prospects. And how do you do this?
You focus on your brand’s ‘why’.
While it is so easy to spot the ‘what’, the ‘why’ of it all gives your brand the heart it needs to be relatable to people.
Take SPD, for example. SPD is a local charity that creates opportunities for people with disabilities to help integrate them better into mainstream society. Not only is the whole brand built with this very purpose in mind (SPD means “Serving People with Disabilities”) but they also make sure to put emphasis on this on all of their social media assets, as well as their official website.
A surefire way to look more real to your consumers is by showing your more humane side to them. Consumers love putting a face to a business. And it doesn’t always have to be an influential endorser or celebrity—it could be the very people in a company. It gives off a feeling that they’re dealing with real people, people they can sympathise with and connect to.
Hire good marketers and PR people
Some brands often forget that a big chunk of the narrative is written by people you hire to do the communicating for you—your pr people or marketers. But it’s not just a matter of onboarding professionals who can turn your brand vision into palatable and clever taglines. It’s also an issue of reinforcing this on your chosen social channels. So it’s both important that you hire good marketers who understand the industry you belong in as well as pr people who can weave your missions and vision into an impactful narrative that people can resonate with.
Brand authenticity matters because, for many, personal authenticity is important.
The majority of your consumers care about purchasing from brands that allow them to be the most authentic versions of themselves. Take for instance one of the greatest drivers in the modern world—the Millennials. Millennials are not easily convinced by traditional marketing that relies on exaggeration and unbacked claims. They tend to scrutinise more. For Millennials, a brand must “walk the talk”.
So, authenticity is no longer a choice—it’s a non-negotiable. An imperative to making good, withstanding business.
All in all, authenticity boils down to how strictly you can follow and implement the values you’ve set for your company.