Once upon a time, businesses could advertise what they sold, add some bells and whistles for good measure, and go on about their day. People bought what they needed, and that was that.
In the age of information, however, people are used to knowing everything about a company — their history, their values, and in many cases, what they stand for.
If someone isn’t enamored (or at least content) with who you are as a brand, they’ll gladly do a Google search for competitors they do find relatable. By the same token, if your brand seems to communicate one message, but acts differently behind the scenes (such as by claiming to care about health, but not offering health insurance or paid time off to employees), you look disingenuous.
And that, my friend, can cost you customers.
Brand authenticity means when a business’ actions are consistent with their messaging and image. It also refers to transparency and delivering on your promises. In a nutshell, brand authenticity showcases a company’s integrity.
There are many ways a brand can display their authenticity. A good example is being honest with customers when there’s been an internal issue that may delay delivery of goods or services. Instead of passing the buck or pretending that everything’s ok, customers get honest communications regarding what’s going on, how it’s getting fixed, and what they can expect.
Or a company could be well known for their eco-friendly, sustainable products, and the CEO regularly donates to non-profit organizations, charities, and/or political candidates who align with those same goals.
Brand authenticity means you walk the walk. It’s so easy to say things you think your target market will find appealing, but do you really mean them? Depending on your generation, you may think that it doesn’t really matter. But the reality is that when a business is authentic, they reap many benefits, including:
When you consistently deliver on your promises and live what you preach, your target market starts viewing you as trustworthy. This is why you can back up what you say with what you do. You’re seen as dependable; someone to do business with.
Creating Stronger Connections
If you pay close attention to the news, you’ve likely noticed that certain companies are well-known for their reputation and stances — Target, Nike, Disney, Chick-fil-A, to name a few. People like to support businesses they resonate with. While some people may find it divisive, many find it as compelling reasons to keep doing business with them.
When a brand is authentic, it often results in the audience experiencing certain kinds of feelings. It may be nostalgia, patriotism, inspiration.
Whatever it may be, when you can evoke an emotional reaction from consumers, you stand out from the competition; and those impressions are memorable enough to recall when a person needs your goods or services.
There are many ways to develop and showcase your brand’s authenticity. It requires strategic planning, but it’s always a worthy endeavor. Take some time with your leadership and marketing teams, and look for ways to prioritize the following:
Answer customers’ questions. Address any issues that pop up. Manage expectations. Never leave prospects or customers in the dark — even if they’re leaving you negative comments on social media.
Stay True to Your Company Values.
Every company has their own values, and staying true to them demonstrates to customers that you care about much more than just profits.
Whether it’s establishing a sense of community, holding each other accountable, celebrating diversity, respecting people’s dignity, or whatever they may be, live up to them with all your actions.
Take a Stand.
Elie Wiesel said it best: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Anyone who was old enough to remember 2020 is aware of how social justice issues have become front and center issues. And 70 percent of consumers believe brands should take a public stand on these issues.
Develop Your Industry Expertise.
Any time that you showcase your expertise within your industry, you gain more street cred, for lack of a better term. You can do this by participating in TED talks, expert panels, news interviews, or simply by posting consistent content that’s helpful to your audience.
Show Your Personality.
Businesses can no longer get away with being a faceless entity. Developing a brand personality goes a long way to make them feel like they can relate to you.
To figure out how to do this, make a list of traits you want your company to portray — fun, young, funny, serious, innovative… Then, develop marketing strategies that display those characteristics.
Post Real Images Every Now and Then.
This can be done on social media posts showcasing your company culture, celebrating your team’s accomplishments, or even simply wishing customers happy holidays. It lets them see who you are and fosters a sense of familiarity.
Connect Through Stories.
Something else that shows your human side is to share relatable stories. Anything having to do with overcoming challenges, spending time with loved ones, giving back to the community, or anything that explains why you started your business, expanded services, and/or decided to sponsor a particular event. Doing this establishes connections and makes your business memorable.
Engage With Customers.
Engaging with customers is an integral part of good customer service. Even if they haven’t become customers yet, having conversations with people is part of nurturing leads.
Once they’re ready to do business, they’ll know you’re a company they can trust. Doing so is also an important part of providing a good customer experience — which is what keeps them coming back and referring you to friends and family.
Don’t Purchase Followers on Social Media.
Social media platforms are hugely popular because you can accomplish so much through them: Engaging with the public, marketing, sales, and posting cool pictures showing your team celebrating it all.
However, don’t be tempted to purchase followers for the sake of being more established or influential than you are. Doing so will eventually hurt your credibility.
Consumers are savvy about this. Telltale signs, such as having a high follower count and a relatively low engagement rate, or people could simply enter your user name into Social Blade and read stats, such as subscriber and engagement count, along with other data; and then the jig will really be up.
Take Feedback Into Account.
If you say you care about your customers, it’s imperative to listen to their suggestions. And if some of them sound like they make sense, then implement them within your business.
For example, if several people have complained about long wait times to get customer support issues resolved, it’s time to look into resolving that. Or if they regularly request a service/product modification and it’s a viable one, deliver on that. Every time you give them what they want, you (a) meet a need in the market, and (b) let them know that you value their opinions.
Hold Yourself Accountable.
If you mess up, own it. There’s no shame in it as long as you address it, apologize, and fix it. In fact, this makes you look more human and trustworthy.
Then get your team together to see how the mistake occurred and implement measures to prevent it from happening again.
And now, without further ado, here are some examples of companies who’ve been doing brand authenticity right since the times of landlines and public pay phones:
Are you even surprised? Everyone and their mother loves Disney. Even those who roll their eyes at the park characters probably still watch shows on Disney+ or have seen one of their shows on Broadway.
Why? Because everything they do is fully aligned with their image of being a magical, happy place. They make people feel excited, nostalgic, and appreciated. Their customer support cast members offer extraordinary service. No matter where or how you interact with the company, you end up with a good experience.
Apple is all about simplicity and practicality. Think for a moment about what you remember about Steve Jobs. The guy always wore a black shirt and jeans. Their website is like that. Their ads are like that. Their products are like that. The experience at their stores is like that.
And guess what their company values are? “We believe in the simple; not the complex,” and “We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products.” They are truly aligned, in every sense.
Google is a simple concept. A white page with a search bar. Yet they regularly make statements by modifying their logo to showcase important historical figures, dates, and other noteworthy information.
And they do so to display to the world what’s important to them. In short, they take a stand and reflect their values every single day.
Amazon has built a worldwide empire by providing fast and reliable service — and by showing they value their customers by bending over backwards to resolve customer support issues.
In fact, this is part of the reason consumers view them as a company that also offers respectfulness as part of their brand identity. All of these elements have added up to the company being considered as one of the most authentic brands in the United States.
PayPal is one of the world’s most trusted financial services brands. This is no small feat, considering the industry’s reputation after the 2008 crash.
This is because they promise to keep financial information secure, and they deliver on that promise with their encryption technologies, around-the-clock monitoring, and worldwide purchase protection.
Earn Trust With Brand Authenticity
As you can see, building up a trustworthy image requires a lot more than offering good products or services.
In a world that’s as visual and as exposed to data as we are, you have to intentionally align all elements of your core values with your brand image and your actions. Wouldn’t you want the businesses you support to do the same?