Why Major Brands Prioritize Authenticity
A loyal customer is good.
But a brand enthusiast is better.
Major companies prioritize authenticity in their marketing strategy to create fans of customers. With lots of choices, consumers opt for brands they trust and that seem “like” them in some way.
Consistency in brand development creates a clear brand personality.
This authenticity builds lasting relationships and loyal customers.
Brands that regularly connect with customers through multiple channels come out on top.
What is Authenticity in Brand Marketing?
Brand authenticity means being accountable, transparent, and vulnerable while upholding a company’s core values.
An authentic brand stays true to its vision, its products or services, and its customers. It responds to consumer concerns with a clear desire to resolve them. When a brand is authentic, customers know it and choose it.
The top brands in the world put customers first, because they know empires are built on customer satisfaction. Like a good friend, an authentic company is sensitive to the people they serve. In a business context, authenticity involves developing products that meet real needs, addressing complaints effectively, being transparent, and correcting issues.
Online, this includes listening and responding publicly to customers – the quicker the better. Handled correctly, a bad customer experience becomes social proof of a company’s trustworthiness. People weigh what they read in reviews more heavily than a company’s marketing claims. Online reviews matter in public opinion. Up to 93% of consumers say online reviews influence their purchasing decision.
Company Culture is a Resource for Brand Positioning
To ring true, authenticity has to include the company culture.
It’s difficult to pretend to be something you’re not – for people and brands. An informal company might not hold up to a formal brand image.
Marketing created by a conservative group might not hit the mark in a liberal market. An authentic marketing strategy reflects aspects of the real company culture. Here are twenty-five examples of company culture.
Blackbaud is one company listed in the article. Their internal culture grows from each individual’s passion to serve the nonprofit community.
While brand personality is based in company culture, it’s not meant to be a mirror image. We speak differently with friends than we do with colleagues. Brand personality does need to be adapted to the customer base.
A pivotal part of that is giving consumers the information and resources they want and need. It creates a bridge from the company’s expertise to their daily life. Demonstrating care about a customer’s experience adds a human element to the brand.
Companies share authentically through their branding and marketing strategies to build lasting relationships. Projecting a false image defeats the purpose. It can also create ongoing trouble. Uber is one example of a company culture exposed: The mistake, and reverberating press, opened the market for Lyft and continues to plague Uber’s image.
Credibility is a Solid Brand Strategy
Credibility establishes leaders.
One way to build it into a brand marketing strategy is to start with the company’s “universal truth.”
Before creating any marketing, major brands search for a guiding principle. They ask: “Why was this brand created?”
Once identified, the brand’s “universal truth” becomes the North Star for brand positioning. Marketing campaigns remain consistent with those beliefs and missions. The company’s values become familiar to everyone. People feel like they know it.
Another essential component of credibility is the quality of content marketing. Readers want value. They want relevant information that makes their daily lives better. Customer-focused content positions a company as a go-to resource.
Written content should also be accurate and correctly sourced. Promotional material should be sparingly interspersed within valuable content. The reader wants to feel informed and supported and not like a sales target. The goodwill created by providing value to a customer’s life brings that customer back to buy.
In the golden age of television, before the internet, a catchy slogan and adorable mascot could attract masses. Tony the Tiger, for example, or the Energizer Bunny. Today people want more than entertainment – they want engagement. Increasingly, major brands avoid gimmicky ads that don’t ring true to their values. Consumers see right through them. In the long term, they chip away at a company’s credibility.
Businesses that Give Back Win Loyalty
Another way major brands use their core values to stand out is through social purpose. When people think of authentic brands, companies like Patagonia, TOMS, Ben & Jerry’s, and Lego come to mind. The reason? They built their brand marketing strategy around social purpose.
Nearly two-thirds of consumers globally prefer to buy goods and services from companies that reflect their values and beliefs. They also avoid those that don’t. Buyers will even pay slightly more for products that support charity. An example of such a company, with products in most grocery stores, is Newman’s Own. Started by actor Paul Newman, they produce health-conscious food from spelt pretzel twists to organic spaghetti sauce. All profits are donated to charitable causes.
Taking a stand on social issues contributes to a brand’s authenticity. Those who align on those issues are attracted to the brand. Younger consumers, in particular, prioritize social conscience. A company that wins buy-in and loyalty today could keep it for a lifetime.
Avoid Disappointment with Accurate Expectations
For long-term customer satisfaction, brand marketing should accurately represent the actual customer experience. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around. Pie in the sky or even slightly misleading promises may boost sales for a short-term moment. That can all disappear when consumer disappointment creates a social media backlash.
An authentic brand strategy calls for consistency and transparency. It dictates that companies:
- Stick to what they do and do it best
- Know who their customers are
- Know what their customers expect
How can a company know what buyers expect? With online analytics, surveys, and other market research, it’s easier than ever for companies to glean data. Yet, data alone is not enough. Major companies combine that data with personal insight and strive to understand customer behavior and culture. They ask: “What can we do to make life easier?” They put themselves in the customers’ shoes with the goal of fulfilling expectations at every point of the purchasing journey.
Tell Your Company Story
Scientists recently confirmed something the smallest child knows: stories are powerful teachers. They influence, inform, and inspire. They connect the storyteller and the audience.
Stories are fundamental to being human. Our brains are hardwired for stories. They are part of our history. A well-crafted story effortlessly communicates layers of meaning. It’s a penetrating way for a brand to express its values.
“A good story makes you feel something and is universal. [Customers] want to grasp your values and your commitment to excellence; be inspired and intrigued. Storytelling is the most powerful way to convey these ideas.” -Mark Truby, Vice President of Communications, Ford Motor Company
Telling the company story is a critical part of a brand-building strategy. It shapes the public view and expresses core values. A well-told story forms the foundation of an effective brand strategy. Done right, people buy-in simply because they love the message and the stories. The experience becomes more than a product or service. Customers are part of something meaningful.
The key to stories is… be authentic. Consumers see through fabricated tales and false brand personalities. It may hold up for a while. At some point, the truth will come out with a backlash that could damage the brand reputation. For companies as with people, building trust is easiest the first time.
Brand Development and the Bottom Line
Great branding and marketing strategy ensures your audience remembers who you are. It forges that emotional connection that says your brand is safe, familiar, and the best choice to buy. In a consumer landscape that never stops expanding with new and improved options, loyal customers are pure gold.
Staying connected to and responding to their customer base does more than build a company’s social proof. Integrating valuable and real-time feedback keeps them alive and growing. It can stave off dwindling profits and help maintain steady growth. It is a win-win for a brand to connect with its audience, learn about them, and give them what they want.
The move towards authenticity is an opportunity for companies to be more profitable by doing the right thing. What that means, specifically, depends on the company’s vision and culture. It could be as simple as exceptional customer service or as grand as a measurable contribution to a social cause. Consumers today want to be more than a cog or a number. They want to be part of something that makes the world a better place.