Long gone are the days of putting up a billboard or running an advertisement on the local television station with a simple message about your product or service and what problems it solves. When we see “problem-solution” marketing it’s hard not to imagine the latest infomercial or a black and white ad from the 1950s. Today, your marketing message says more about ‘who’ your brand is rather than ‘what you offer’. With the increase in social awareness, your audience now craves brand authenticity, and needs to connect with a human experience.
What Is Brand Authenticity?
For some brands, it is more difficult to really grasp the concept of authenticity and what it means than taking action on it. Before going into why it is important, we first need to understand what brand authenticity is.
When thinking about brand authenticity, as marketers we need to think of the customer’s experience with our brand. That experience starts with the first impression all the way through to customer service. If your brand voice is more informal and helpful, the experience of buying and post-sale service should match it. Additionally, the communication you have with customers and over social media or email needs to reflect that as well. Unfortunately, most of us have had the experience of being excited to buy a product or service that sounded amazing, but it was actually sub par and the customer service was even worse. This universal experience has not just coined many phrases, but also has jaded the average consumer.
Where it gets more difficult and yet more important, is the actions your brand takes and how that changes the experience of your audience. If your brand message is about being a part of the community and caring about the people, but the organization doesn’t offer employees options to help the community or take care of people, then there is no authenticity to that message. This may seem simple, but in 2020 during the peak of Black Lives Matter protests, brands all over the nation were changing their social profiles and posting messages to stand in solidarity with the Black community. Yet, most brands didn’t contribute by donating or by creating change within their own corporate structure to empower equality and consumers were calling them out on it! Keep in mind, we are not saying your brand should jump online and share your opinion about a political or social issue. What we are saying is your brand needs to walk the walk if it is going to talk the talk.
Why Is Brand Authenticity Important
We’re going to circle back to experience again here because how your brand makes people feel and think can be a lot more important than what you offer. Brand loyalty is important to growing any business, and if your audience feels the brand’s marketing is ungenuine or it is just going through the motions it will be a lot harder to convert and retain them as long-term customers. The internet offers a wealth of information and opinions at the fingertips of consumers and today, more than 80% of consumers conduct online research before making a purchase (Source: GE Capital Retail Bank). You can be sure that your audience will come across where your brand has been authentic or where it has lacked credibility.
In the digital era, people can feel a loss of the human element in everyday transactions. You can research and buy online, and with so much white noise it’s difficult to know what to ignore and the messages that really matter. Authentic brands break through this barrier by connecting on a more intimate level with consumers and showing humanity in a corporate entity. According to Smart Insights, 86% of consumers prefer an authentic and honest brand personality on social networks. People aren’t looking for brands that are pretty and perfect, they are looking for brands they connect with and resonate with them.
How To Enable Brand Authenticity
So, what does this mean for the average brand? Do you need to go out and be a hero for social justice? Or volunteer and donate everything for the good of the community? Not at all. Brand Authenticity starts with your brand identity and brand voice. It needs to be a part of who you are and why you do what you do. To most of our marketing professionals, this sounds like a fun project, but the hard part is incorporating brand authenticity in every aspect of your brand from the top down.
This means getting the owner, CEO (as scary as it might be the CFO too), or other top influential people in your organization to meet and have an honest conversation about your brand identity and voice. Figure out why you do what you do. Understand how you want to be seen in the market and what your audience wants to be aligned with. Once you have this, it needs to be part of your corporate culture, starting with the people that interact with your customers the most. Think about it from the customer’s point of view. They are looking for real experiences with other people and the first encounter with your brand is going to be marketing then likely an entry-level employee. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 people or 10,000 that represent your brand. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
Once you have the internal part figured out, use this opportunity to get ahead of the competition. Break the norms of your market and be bold with messaging and marketing experiences that authentically cement your brand’s identity. One of our favorite brands to do this is Wendy’s sarcastic tone of voice over social media; it feels like you are talking with a close friend. If your brand is trying to connect with the community, make plans to include community outreach or sponsoring community events as part of your marketing strategy. If your brand is focused on helping people with expert advice, consider offering tips of the day or social media or more in-depth answers to common issues on a blog page. The key to brand authenticity is when getting creative and planning your message, look back at your brand identity and think “Is this what my brand would do as a person?” and “Does this reflect a genuine message from our brand?”.
Sometimes it is better to get an honest opinion from someone outside the brand to determine your brand authenticity. Many clients we work with rely on us for that outside view and keeping their messaging exciting and creative, yet true to their brand identity. While it is only one part of the marketing strategy, it is a key aspect to keep in mind. If you have questions about how to give your brand the human element even through digital marketing, feel free to drop us a message.