Authenticity is an invaluable element of branding and is the key to a profitable business.
Pause for a moment, if you will, and imagine the hundreds of images and videos flowing through social channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc, minute by minute. The massive amounts of content that exist online presents a multitude of opportunities for brands to connect and engage with their customers.
At the same time, we’re also living in a climate of fake news, false narratives and click-baiting. Such misinformation can result in law suits, product recalls and worse still, damaged brand reputation. In some cases, this may be irreversible, if not handled properly, and with genuine intent.
Social media plays a significant role in driving conversations for brands, and we’re definitely seeing a shift in brand-customer communication. Inter-connectivity and globalization have created a new level of consumer consciousness. Gone are the days of broadcast messaging. Today’s customers are a new breed who know the power of their voice, and are holding brands to a higher standard. They rely on conversations driven by trusted opinion leaders, friends, and family to learn about products. They look to companies with an authentic set of brand values. To them, it’s not just about the product but the values that a brand advocates, and if the company’s business practices align with that of their own.
There’s no fooling people with starry-eyed ads or any kind of hype. Our well-informed, media-savvy customers are pretty cautious and will not shy away from thinking twice about the brands they interact with. They invest in a good amount of time researching a product or service before making purchase decisions. If the brand is not true to itself or authentic, you can be sure the bad news is going to go viral in no time!
For a brand to be considered authentic, it needs the big three R’s. In short, it needs to be perceived as reliable, respectful and real to inspire a loyal following, setting in motion a chain of positive events. Because, when we’re inspired by an authentic brand, we tend to be as emotionally invested in its success, and are more likely to buy the product at any cost.
So what does it take for a company to convince us that they are an authentic brand? Let’s check out some of the attributes.
- Open, honest and transparent
Customers want to know everything that goes into a product. They want detailed information on how and where the raw materials are sourced from, if they’re ethically made, etc. If companies are not open to sharing this information, they will be viewed with mistrust, prompting questions like “What are trying to hide?” This can hurt a brand’s reputation. Transparency enables customers to understand what they’re buying into and how their investments (and values) are being handled. The more they know, the more likely they are to place their trust in the brand.
- Don’t sit on the fence
As the saying goes “If you sit on the fence, you’re going to get hit from both sides!” If you honestly believe in your brand and its values, don’t be afraid to take a stand. Staying neutral on social issues will get you nowhere, especially with the “woke” generation of consumers. These consumers want to be associated with brands that share in their own beliefs, and are willing to use the power of the brand to make a difference in the society we live in.
- Be consistent with your brand story
Most companies have mission statements or brand stories on their website. This story has to be consistent throughout all communications, be it marketing collaterals, logo (taglines), business cards, company videos, etc. A consistent story is a powerful tool that will leave a lasting impression on your audience.
- Maintain your integrity
Without integrity, there can be no success. Integrity is a core principle of any business. By the same token, so too should your brand. Brand integrity is a measure of how buyers perceive a brand across all its touchpoints. Maintaining integrity will not only ensure that your brand stays in the right lane, it builds trust and enhances brand reputation.
- Own your mistake(s)
An excuse is not a valid explanation for something gone wrong. It’s not what your customer wants to hear. Mistakes can happen, and sometimes it’s beyond anyone’s control. How you handle the situation can make or break your brand. Be the first to own it. Do a quick investigation and describe the problem. Take responsibility and don’t pass the buck. By taking ownership of the mistake, apologizing, and providing a realistic solution to fix the problem, you demonstrate honesty and integrity. Being honest also shows that you care about your customers, and that their respect is important to you. You’ll be surprised at how forgiving customers can be.
Takeaway: Authenticity is an invaluable element of branding and is the key to a profitable business. As part of your marketing and communications strategy, remember, your brand must speak to the individual in a tone that’s personalized, natural and friendly. Use content that’s real and genuine. These are the characteristics that consumers most want and will gravitate to.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia