In this age of faceless interactions and digital transactions, is it any wonder that we keep yearning for something real, something genuine? In the world of marketing, when it comes to choosing brands, it’s no longer just about a service or product – it’s all about that authentic, personal experience that we seek.
Yet, authenticity is a word that is bandied about, often too casually. What does it really mean? And how can companies be convincingly genuine and transparent?
Findings in the Journal of Business Research distil this fuzzy concept into three attributes that consumers value most: heritage, sincerity and dedication to quality. While the third component is straightforward enough, businesses tend to flounder when it comes to delivering sincere messages or incorporating roots into their core values or vision.
At a time when transparency scandals seem to dominate headlines, and clarity and commitment are at a premium, successful brands stay ahead by being open and honest, displaying empathy, and fostering meaningful relationships with consumers across varied platforms.
Under the Right Influence(r)s
The prevalence of social media makes it easy for consumers to quickly obtain information and form opinions on brands. More and more partnerships also occur on these channels, with brands investing in influential individuals to promote their offerings.
While this marketing strategy isn’t new, astute brands increasingly seek authentic collaborations that maximise their credibility. Micro-influencers, in particular, have become favoured brand ambassadors on social media. Businesses find value in their smaller follower count (ranging from 500 to 10,000), and their closer relationships to their tight, niche communities of committed followers. For companies, this means better engagement with hyper-targeted audiences through a trusted individual.
When businesses successfully align themselves with influencers that are genuine fans of their brand, they benefit from authentic recommendations, increase their presence online (sans the hard selling!), and build a consumer base by conversing with the people who really matter to them.
Your Magic Affinity
Today, more than ever, consumers are inclined to put their money where their heart is, supporting brands with which they share common values. In the polarised climate we live in, remaining silent on larger social, political or cultural issues is difficult (and perhaps, even inadvisable).
Social responsibility continues to gain momentum as companies look to connect with conscious consumers on an emotional level. Taking up a meaningful cause not only sets businesses apart, it also helps to establish credibility and trust through positive associations with the brand.
But wanting to do good can sometimes go wrong – when businesses appear less than informed about the causes they support, they can come across as tone-deaf or inauthentic. To ensure legitimacy and resonance, companies have to understand the issue and their relationship to it. Ideally, consumers should be able to draw connections (almost immediately) between the issue and the company’s core beliefs or vision.
Stand for issues that make most sense to your brand. When your social causes are communicated effectively and sincerely, you nurture brand affinity, build a community around your brand, and are likely to retain loyal customers for longer.
Transparency is the New Currency
Open and honest communications are key to building trust and ultimately, brand loyalty. Consumers appreciate being given insight into the processes that take place before their purchase, and continued efforts to keep them informed. By educating consumers and being visible in their operations, companies demonstrate their genuine commitment to the customer.
One great example is Mars’ announcement to distinguish food products into “everyday” and “occasional” items on their packs and website, as part of an initiative to promote healthier food choices. While the move was deemed unusual, it nevertheless communicated Mars’ sense of responsibility to its consumers.
In times of crisis, honesty and authenticity become even more crucial as consumers want to be assured that problems are being addressed ethically and transparently. Rapid, informative responses, regular updates across all platforms, and sincere acknowledgement of mistakes (and a clear willingness to learn from them) will help alleviate fears, restore confidence, and show a commitment to upholding the trust the company has built.
Once embedded into a brand’s culture, operations, and mission, authenticity can positively influence customer experience and perception – and this will pay huge dividends in the long run.
Posted by Rahimah Amin, CorpMedia