Why being genuine and authentic is a must for your brand [plus actionable takeaways]
Authenticity is at the heart of success. Without it, a brand becomes little more than ‘just another name’, one that people will neither follow nor trust. And so, in such a competitive market, being genuine, authentic and true to your brand has become more important than ever before – but what exactly does this mean, why does it matter and how on Earth are you supposed to apply this to your brand? This article addresses all of these questions and provides handy action points to help you get on the right track. So, let’s dive straight in.
Being a genuine and authentic brand means:
Being true to your core values …
…and knowing what they are to begin with. There is no ship further adrift than a brand with no brand values. Without core values, a brand cannot possibly hope to portray an aura of authenticity, much less maintain one, so nailing these down early is important. The best place to start when deciding on brand values is by asking ‘why do we do what we do?’. Celebrated author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, advocates this approach in his popular book, Start With Why, in which he so rightly states:
“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”
So start by working backwards from what your product or service does and think about why you started your business and why it matters to your customers. This is the part that your audience is going to connect with and relate to the most, and the part that will inspire loyalty and trust in your brand. These ‘reasons why’ will form the basis of your brand’s core values, ultimately shaping your company culture and how you communicate your brand to your audience.
Take one of Google’s core brand values as an example: “Focus on the user and all else will follow”. Google does what it does because it wants to help its users find exactly what they need as quickly as possible, and so its core values reflect this reason for Google’s existence.
Once you have these values in place, build them into every fibre of your brand’s activities so they are not forgotten. This approach increases the likelihood of your brand sticking to its values, allowing customers to develop a level of trust in your brand. Staying true to your core values will demonstrate that your brand means what it says and will deliver on its promises, no matter what.
Being socially responsible, honest and accountable
Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in the social responsibility, impact and ethics of the brands they engage with. In fact, research published by MediaCom following a survey of 2000 consumers states that almost half (40%) are abandoning brands that don’t make a positive impact on society, while 49% say they are willing to pay more for a brand that supports a cause that’s important to them.
That being said …
The very same research also showed that 45% of consumers admit to feeling sceptical of any brands claiming to support good causes. So, what does this tell us?
It tells us that brands need to show they take their social impact seriously without exaggerating or overstating their credentials or activities, or without straying too far from their own brand identity. This is where the element of authenticity comes back into it; consumers are more savvy than ever before, and many a brand (think Missguided, Pepsi and McDonalds) have come under fire for seemingly exploitative or disingenuous attempts at leveraging social consciousness (or ignoring it altogether) in their advertising campaigns.
In other words, if your brand is telling porkies, running half-hearted campaigns or claiming to support a cause that contradicts your core brand values, your customers will be quick to call you out on it. Keep it real, relevant and honest, however, and you’ll be just fine.
Action Point: Map out a social responsibility mission for your brand that corresponds with and complements your already-defined core values. Remember to always read the room and do your research before you commit.
Knowing your audience and serving their needs
The biggest judges of brand authenticity are the consumers. With this in mind, brands need to hit the nail on the head when it comes to audience knowledge if they’re going to earn the trust and respect of their biggest critics.
Know your audience. Treat them well, serve their needs and do it in a way that will resonate with them and only them. Brands that make the mistake of casting the net too wide and ‘selling out’ to try and capture every last customer soon find themselves losing favour with their core audience.
Customers like to feel special, like their brands are speaking to them, connecting with them on an emotional level and catering to their own personal needs. The moment they see their favourite brands abandoning that approach only to make a quick buck, they’ll walk away. Bang goes your image of authenticity along with them.
Action Point: Develop a brand archetype based on your core values. This is an effective way to communicate and connect with your audience on an emotional level, helping build an authentic, trustworthy image with a relatable story behind it.
The most authentic, genuine brands ensure that their messaging and branding is consistent at all times and across all channels. This means everything from your visual brand identity to your brand voice and use of imagery needs to remain consistent and familiar across your general marketing strategy, social media strategy and content strategy. This includes all customer touchpoints such as your website, advertising, brand stationery, direct marketing materials, merchandise and your bricks and mortar presence (if you have one), so there’s a lot to keep track of.
The effort is well worth it, however. The best brands are viewed by their audience almost like people and, when a brand delivers the exact same personality and service across all touchpoints, that brand-personality begins to feel like a friend. You can imagine, then, that when inconsistencies do appear, the effect is the exact opposite. You dilute your brand image and your authenticity, causing a breakdown in trust among your audience.
Action Point: Develop your own set of solid brand guidelines and style guides covering use of logos, colour schemes, imagery and language to help ensure messaging and brand image is consistent across the board.
While you’re here …
If you’re looking for help in creating a solid, authentic brand identity that your audience can really get behind, you’ve come to the right place. The Design By Day team are seasoned experts in creating and unlocking the power of great brand identity, so say firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s work together on something new, exciting and – above all – genuine.