What is brand authenticity? Well, generally speaking, it’s when brands act, illustrate and feel (or be) genuine to their customers.
The byproduct of brand authenticity is more important than brand authenticity itself — i.e., brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is the emotional affirmation of your brand’s authenticity. And brand loyalty is what drives your revenue.
But brand loyalty requires hard work and patience. And it involves understanding your customers’ core values and delivering on them.
So, what makes a brand authentic?
Brands that do all three are brands that customers prefer and trust. How can you adopt these qualities and make your brand more authentic?
TIP 1: Be reliable – Quality over quantity, and keep your promises
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, there's an authenticity deficit in the global marketplace today. Not all brands keep the promises they make, not all communicate honestly, and not enough place the customer's interests above their own.
Take any variety of tech companies for instance (with admittedly the exception of large-scale corporations like Google, Facebook and so forth… kindly ignore those!) PayPal comms SVP Franz Paasche said: "Tech brands combine the excitement of innovation with [making] the everyday living of life easier, and that gives you a trusted role in people's lives."
For example, even when Microsoft felt customers brand loyalty wane after the launch of its disastrous Vista operating system, they hit the ground running to find out why it let their customers down and focused its efforts on trying to right the wrong.
Kathleen Hall, advertising and marketing VP of Microsoft, said: "We went back to our consumers and did a global study, visualizing what the brand meant to them. There was consistency worldwide: Microsoft means opportunity, access and connection, a combination of strength and possibility."
Ten years later, the company is still enjoying the fruits of that study. The idea is to take stock of what people need and expect from you, then deliver on your promises. What you do on the ground can sometimes speak more than your marketing dollars ever could.
TIP 2: Be respectful — Customer-centricity is key to revenue growth
By far, the most important aspect of a brand's authenticity is its customer-centricity.
It's crucial to treat your customers as the most pivotal part of your business. You don't need a major PR push to show the world how much you care, instead what you need are genuine efforts to deliver the basics and help your customers.
Take the Patagonia brand as an example. The company mission statement is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” To that end, the company has many checks in place to ensure it hits on that mission statement. Such as:
Environmentally-friendly production practices
Educational programs and initiatives for the public
Fair pay and wages for it direct employees and partner employees
Now, that’s just the beginning. To see for yourself, check out Patagonia’s core value page!
TIP 3: Be real – Personalize customer communications
Authenticity doesn’t come from the product or service you sell, but from how, why and where you sell it.
Winning brands take great pains to communicate with customers in ways that feel personal. They see themselves as a productive part of the customer's life, and each marketing message is personalized for them. They nail practices like cross-cultural marketing, localization, creating dedicated websites for different countries, and identifying as a local brand despite being a global brand.
By being real, you inevitably build trust and rapport with your customers. And to establish that trust, you need to be honest in your words and actions. Michael Boychuk, the former executive creative director of Amazon, said: "You can say whatever you want, however, you want to say it, but if you're not interacting with people authentically, advertising is nothing."
Be really reliable, respectful — and really real
Be reliable, be respectful and be real. That's what gets customers to trust you and perceive you as an authentic brand. Revenue and profits are a byproduct of customer-centricity. Always remember that a good brand serves the customer. If you can take these ideas to heart, you'll build better brand authenticity than millions of marketing dollars ever could.