It is indubitable that every brand has a story behind them. This common knowledge has made people –especially those who are building an online business – hide behind their screens to saturate the social media with false stories just to make money as well as promote their brands. They promote ideals in which they do not really believe. They claim they have traveled to certain places when the trip was actually made in their world of fantasy.
There are other people who believe they can’t become successful in an industry or brand until they act, talk, or even dress like a successful leader in that industry. Nothing else can be further from the truth than this! They may even put up a “super-polished” persona. However, such later comes off as phony. The consequence is that, people lose trust in their brands, and, subsequently, stop buying from them.
The reality is that consumers now want to relate with brands on a more personal level rather than a business one, and this connection can only be got with brands that express authenticity and credibility. Besides, people are now more informed than ever, such that they can perceive scam from several miles away, and wouldn’t hesitate to call out any brand that fails to measure up to their preferred level of genuineness.
Is being authentic profitable?
The truth is that everyone cannot like – or believe in – your brand. However, you will always get your customer base. For instance, Apple Inc. has been at the forefront of providing intuitive technology to consumers. It continues to reel out designs that leave a majority of tech lovers with no better choice than to embrace the brand with open arms, however, not ruling out possibilities of exceptions – that is, consumers who will NOT patronize the brand based on principles. The brand employs authenticity as its core value – a decision that has won it a wide customer base and unparalleled loyalty.
Dove Self-Esteem Project transformed itself from a mere soap company to a brand that authentically champions women’s beauty and empowerment. In aligning with its mission, it maintained credibility in its appearance and marketing messages. Its 2013 sketch ad was the most viewed viral ad campaign for the year. This made the brand witness about $1.5 million sales jump.
Authenticity engenders brand loyalty. Your brand – whether personal or business – is your face to the world. It represents your ideals, values, vision, and mission. Think of what is embedded in this comment: “You are the same, both online and offline.” It simply attests to the true representation of your brand.
Principles of authenticity
Conveying brand authenticity relies heavily on the building blocks of integrity, sincerity, and brand history.
People only want to do business with brands that continue to prove that they are what they say they are, care about their clients, and are passionate about their goals. A brand that has its integrity questioned has simply failed the first test of authenticity, and is doing to itself a great disservice.
Sincerity has to do with conveying aspects that represent the core values of a brand. It is the true picture of what your brand represents. Your product or service is expected to live up to its branding. Many consumers have been deceived by buzzwords from brands, only to be disappointed with the eventual product or service delivery. To avoid social media complaints, brands should always address problems head on. This will save them a lot.
Building a brand involves having a history that birthed the brand. The history should, therefore, form an authentic message. There is no new brand without a history. Assume the position of a reporter, dig into the history, and convey the story in a very powerful way.
Authenticity and vulnerability
Another principle that is worthy to be considered is vulnerability. Doesn’t this sound counterproductive?
As humans, we are not quick to tell the tale of our challenges or share our emotions, especially the deeper ones. This is an obstacle that every brand that seeks to be genuine and strong has to get rid of. In other words, authenticity requires you to be truly vulnerable. Allow your personality into your brand. However, a balance should be drawn. You wouldn’t want to expose certain “dirtiness” that can turn people away from you.
The logic behind being vulnerable is that, being transparent about the struggles and hardships you encountered in building or growing your brand makes you human and, of course, relatable. If you are strategic and consistent with it throughout your brand messaging, it can win a lot of prospects to your brand.
Oprah Winfrey attributed her brand success to being authentic. According to her, being authentic is more of revealing one’s flaws rather than putting up a front of total competence. The authentic way in which she ran her business and led her team unlocked her success as an entrepreneur.
That is how far being authentic can take one to.
How to be authentic
Get your values clear
Promoting your brand values has been identified as one of the ways to be authentic. This calls for the need to identify the core values of your brand. Why does your business exist? What is the propelling force? Share the reason behind the establishment of your business or brand in a unique way – as if you are telling a story to a friend. The clear knowledge of your values will also guide your marketing efforts. In the face of a controversial issue, especially the one that does not represent your value, take a bold stand. Though your stance won’t go well with everyone, however, those who share your belief will stay with your brand.
Use people who embody your brand
Take Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock), for instance. As an actor, he is also into fitness and healthy living. This contributes in no small measures to his decision to partner with Under Armor, a clothing brand for lovers of fitness. What the brand does and is all about aligns perfectly with his personality. With this, the product becomes more attractive and meaningful to the target audience.
Using people that embody your brand sets you on the path of numerous opportunities. With the knowledge of your values, those whose values also align with yours will follow you and be willing to buy from you. Be the brand you promote.
Be open and transparent
Transparency is the peak of authenticity. Have you ever thought of how being open about the way you run your business or make your products can increase the credible perception of your brand by your audience? Everlane is one brand that has continually observed this in its dealings with consumers. It makes the “true cost of its merchandise” public on its website. This gives shoppers a clue on the costs of creating each item and thus, impacts their decision-making process.
Hire authentic people
Brands that tend to promote authenticity have to consider special details when employing people. It is not about employing people; rather, it is about employing the right people – that is, the people who fit a brand’s culture, represent its ideals, and promote its values. Pay attention to prospective employees’ attitudes and beliefs.
Reveal behind-the-scenes operations
Every outward activity of a brand is a result of what happens behind the scenes. Pulling back the curtain on your business operations earns you customers’ trust and confidence. Who are those running your operations? What are the processes involved? Let your customers have this information at the tip of their fingers. You can go as far as requesting for their honest feedbacks as well as providing answers to their questions publicly.
Don’t be afraid to show your struggles
Many brands, in their bid to convey an image of perfection and success, fail to reveal their ups and downs. People want a brand with whom they can relate. By showing your struggles, you are developing a strong emotional connection with your audience or consumer. In return, you earn their empathy, trust, and loyalty.
One of the seemingly difficult but possible feats to achieve is to be consistent with the truth. Brands whose acts smack of inconsistency will create, in consumers, suspicion and mistrust. Be consistent with your operations across all platforms. Though you might want to diversity your marketing efforts, ensure consistency in your fundamental message, style, and identity. This strengthens your brand and also makes it trustworthy.
With the increasing consideration of how belief-driven a brand is, before making purchases, being authentic has become a necessity, especially for a brand that seeks to thrive in the ever-competitive business environment. No matter how much money, energy, and time you invest in your marketing efforts, your brand will ultimately fail, if it is not open and trustworthy. In other words, authenticity is now the big part of establishing your brand and growing your business. Being genuine has a magnetic effect that draws people naturally to your brand – the kind of loyalty that results in sustainable business success.
Be proud of who you are and what you offer. You are exactly what your client is looking for, let them see it.