The world today is bombarded with information overload. The line between real and fake is getting slimmer as we speak, which is why brands must strive to be authentic and do it with all seriousness. “Why authentic branding is important” is an attempt to set your foot in the right direction towards being authentic in branding.
While it is true that customers are always looking for genuine products or services, that alone does not help towards authenticity in branding: they look for transparent and genuine experiences. Customers want to feel good about the brand they associate with.
Authenticity is the most important factor for Millennials and Generation X, well you can add Baby Boomers to the list as well!
What is brand authenticity?
Brand authenticity boils down to one very simple yet powerful word – honesty. The more genuine and real you are, the more authentic you become. Some experts may tell you that brand authenticity is all about “appearing” authentic: NOT AT ALL! Brand authenticity is not at all about “appearing” authentic; it is about truly being what you really are. When you “appear” to be something, you are most likely not telling the entire truth about yourself; in other words, you are a fake company. Never “appear” to be something!
- As an authentic company: You tell people exactly what you are
- You are clear and honest about your mission and values
- Your policies are very transparent
- You are emotionally connected with your clients
- You are aligned with what you say and do
Why is brand authenticity important?
According to Geoff Beattie “A brand that has values and morals and stands by them no matter what while honestly divulging its practices (flaws and all). In fact, the thing people most wanted was open and honest communications about products and services. And that finding was consistent around the world.”Source: https://www.adweek.com/performance-marketing/the-20-most-authentic-brands-in-the-us-and-why/
It may seem like a challenge at first, but the result of building brand authenticity pays rich dividends. Being authentic is not only beneficial for the customers, but also for your brand. More and more brands are realizing the importance of being authentic as it provides a platform form where they can be seen easily.
If logos act as the face of the company then authenticity is the moral character of the company! What use is it to have a great face but no moral character?
The four components of brand authenticity:
Continuity truly brings value to a brand. Continuity allows a brand to be faithful to itself. Continuity allows a brand to provide the same approach and experience to the customers everywhere they may exist. Brand continuity gives businesses market visibility and competitive edge over others. A brand may achieve continuity through colors, images, packaging, and customer care services among others.
Credibility of a brand can be evaluated by what it promises and what it delivers over a period of time. If continuity is brand being faithful to itself, then credibility is brand being faithful to the customers. The credibility component of a brand is not achieved in a day or two but built after years of hard work and discipline.
Integrity is an extremely essential component of brand authenticity. It is how people perceive your brand and its products, reputation and image. Brand integrity, in simple words, is being responsible for its actions and caring for the customers. While it is perfectly alright if a brand sometimes fails to meet customer experience as promised, losing integrity would mean the value of the company plummeting.
Symbolism is fundamental to building brand authenticity. From the visual identity of the brand to its digital experience, symbolism is inherent to all interactions. Symbolism serves as an opportunity to trigger the customer’s experience and influence their decision making.
How to create brand authenticity?
Brand authenticity has now become a trend and is here to stay. Fake news and misinformation has led people to continuously evaluate if a brand is authentic. Misinformation comes from various sources such as fake news circulated on various social media platforms, paid news, ad pop ups and so on. Tons of information is added on a daily basis online which makes it difficult for consumers to differentiate between real and fake. It is in response to this scenario that brands must work at building their authenticity online and off.
Let us look at some ways to build brand authenticity:
“Honesty is the best policy”: whoever said that was a genius. Be it personal relationships, professional relationships or relationship between brands and consumers, honesty is what keeps the faith alive. Daily routine sometimes forces companies to forget why they started the business in the first place. Such companies must get back to their roots and realize their core values. Having a clear mission helps brands become successful.
As a startup, you can let people and potential customers know about the goals, value and mission of your brand. The act of revealing your intentions honestly will help build your brand and foster brand loyalty.
Stories that connect
One thing people love are true stories, especially the ones that end on a happy note after overcoming several hardships. Tell stories to your customers, not just promotional or marketing ones but the real ones. Real stories about hardships your company had to face and how you overcame them. Authentic brand stories help in connecting with customers at an emotional level and foster brand loyalty. According to experts, brand storytelling will become a common marketing strategy in the near future. Authentic brands use storytelling to communicate with customers and offer valuable knowledge through it. Customers love stories which add value and educate them at the same time.
Heraclitus, the great Greek philosopher said, “the only constant in life is change”; however, the same cannot be applied for a brand that is trying to develop authenticity. It is extremely important to keep consistency at the core of your brand’s narrative if you are to emerge victorious.
The logo, the website, newsletters, marketing strategies, branding and social media should all be aligned and look consistent with your brand image.
Brand identity helps to develop a strong brand image; but, brand identity and all the other aspects of branding depend upon your mission and core values.
Share your expertise
One of the most important parts of being authentic is to share what you have. Do not take your expertise for granted. If you possess in-depth knowledge and experience in your subject then share it with the world. People always need expert advice before they choose to do something and that expert may turn out to be you. You may share your expertise through videos, social media, blogs and websites. Sharing your wisdom with others will make your brand authentic and will help in fostering brand loyalty.
Communicate with your audience
Communication is the key to any healthy relationship. Be it your personal relationships or professional, communication builds authentic relationships that last a lifetime. Communications have the power to resolve any issue that might have an adverse effect in the future.
Make your clients and customers part of your communication as opposed to just informing them about your products and releases. One of the best ways to communicate with your clients and consumers is to involve them in finding solutions to a problem. You may also choose to discuss an idea with them. Finding solutions to problems or discussing new ideas will not only make your brand authentic but extremely approachable.
You could use social media to reach your clients and customers and establish a healthy relationship with them. You must be open to your clients’ suggestions on your products and services.
Plato, in the Socratic dialogue Republic, wrote: “our need will be the real creator.” The famous line became the inspiration for the English proverb, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Innovation plays a key role in establishing your brand as authentic. Look ahead in the future and keep up with all the trends in your company.
The Top 20 Most Authentic Brands in the U.S were chosen not only because of honesty but also because of innovation: Amazon topped the list followed by PayPal.
How brand authenticity helps in making profit
Authentic brands are perceived as reliable and authentic. Consumers are emotionally drawn to brands who have successfully established themselves as authentic, which is the reason they choose products even if less expensive alternatives may be available.
Let us look at three examples of how brands that have established themselves as authentic turned out to be more profitable.
Things began to change for Dove when they launched their Campaign for Real beauty in 2004. The soap makers transformed their brand to a company with a vision. Their new vision statement “beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety” became a hit globally.
Dove has been aligning itself to the vision statement ever since and has become more authentic in doing so. Dove is now seen as a brand that encourages women empowerment and breaks the conventional notion of understanding beauty.
The mission statement, “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” summarizes what the adventure-wear brand is all about. Patagonia fulfills its mission statement through a variety of endeavors such as:
- Investing in renewable energy
- Donating 1% of its sales to environmental groups working at the grassroot level
- Promoting safe working condition and fair labor practices
Patagonia also has several projects that are in line with their mission and vision making it one of the most popular companies in the U.S.
Company values lead to a brand becoming authentic of which Zappos is a prime example. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has built the company around 10 core values which has led the brand to generate huge revenues.
The following are the 10 core values of the company:
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
You should put honesty at the heart of whatever you do: it becomes that much easier for a brand to talk about the purpose, mission, sales & marketing campaign and create “wow” customer experience when you have honesty at the core. Being authentic will give you an unimaginable level of success and loyal customers.
Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world’s largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the DesignBro.com platform.