An important but sometimes misunderstood aspect of marketing is brand authenticity. Authenticity has grown in value in a world where consumers have access to more information than ever before.
It helps companies stand out from the crowd, establish a connection with their target market, and get credibility. This post will discuss the value of brand authenticity in marketing and how it may help your company make money.
What is Brand Authenticity?
Brand authenticity refers to whether consumers believe a brand is genuine about their products/services, promises to customers and brand values. Authenticity is a key component to building a cohesive brand strategy.
In the age of social media, brands can’t hide anything from their customers. Your audiences can find out everything they need to know about your business from other consumers, media, and the internet. Companies can’t just “talk the talk” anymore. For example, it would be unwise to claim that you’re devoted to customer service if you never respond to their messages on social media.
Honesty is an integral part of being an authentic business, but there’s more to it. You’ll also have to uphold a certain integrity level, especially online. Social media transparency is very important because today’s consumers are aware–they know brands are trying to sell a product or service.
According to the Twitter #RealTalk report, 80% of respondents agree they don’t mind being sold to on social media as long as “it’s fun, useful, entertaining, informative or moves me in some way.”
Every brand makes promises to its customers, but you need to make an additional effort to prove you’re delivering and following through with your claims, especially now that the call-out culture is stronger than ever. People know they are being sold to and they aren’t shy about speaking up when they sense a lack of authenticity or dishonesty.
If you want to do a quick gut check of your brand’s authenticity, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you deliver what you promise to your customers in terms of service, experience, and product features?
- Are you true to the values that your business claims to have? Does your brand messaging and mission change constantly?
- Is your business consistent in delivering value? How do you make sure you’re serving clients properly?
Why is Brand Authenticity Important on Social Media?
People join social platforms to connect with family and friends, stay informed, get inspired and more. The better social media marketers can understand people’s motivations for using social, the better we can develop strategies that reach and engage them.
The #BrandsGetReal data report found that when consumers feel connected to brands, more than half of consumers (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.
But how can brands create the real connection people want from them? By focusing on the three key elements that make consumers feel connected to brands on social: shared values, transparency and authenticity.
According to the 2023 Sprout Social Index™, 21% of consumers follow a brand when the brand is aligned to their personal values.
Of course, your products and services are still important, but consumer preferences are fueled by shared values and beliefs. And consumers want brands to demonstrate transparency by illustrating how important these values are to brands on their social media.
Some 71% of consumers think it’s important for brands to raise awareness and take a stand on sensitive issues, while 48% of marketers believe businesses need to speak out on social issues to stay relevant on social media.
This is partly why more companies are adopting and embracing holistic brand activism. It’s also why public relations and social teams need to work together.
Since a brand’s online presence is tied to brand image and voice, collaborating with social media teams is essential to managing an organization’s communications. When executed properly, it can improve your brand awareness.
Plus, this partnership can also help public relations professionals practice brand safety and crisis communication. A social post that goes against a company’s proclaimed values can easily skyrocket into a PR crisis.
The data from the Sprout Social Index™ also showed US consumers are craving authenticity across the board—it’s even listed as the second most important creator trait. Consumers want to see genuine, less-produced content that highlights a product or service in a bona fide way.
Anyone can blast out promotional messages. However developing a social media strategy that embodies authenticity and demonstrates transparency and brand values to create a real connection with your audience—while delivering on your social and business goals—is a different story.
How to Build Brand Authenticity
Here are five actionable strategies you can use to solidify your brand’s authenticity.
Add social proof
This might not be the first time you’ve seen us suggest using social proof in your marketing, and for good reason. It’s one of the best ways to build trust in your brand. Social proof is evidence showing other customers like your brand. Think reviews, social media posts from customers, and case studies. These stamps of approval go a long way in building trust through authenticity.
Read Also: What is Brand Reputation?
After all, customers are more likely to trust people on their level over a brand they don’t know yet. Social proof gives your marketing a human touch that breaks down barriers to trust. Use social proof in your marketing wherever you can to add authenticity. We’re talking websites, landing pages, social media posts — anywhere you have space to vouch for yourself.
Share your story
Your story is what separates your business from your brand. Strong brands have a mission behind them, whether it’s something simple like making people happier or something ambitious like helping the environment. Share how your brand came to be and why you do what you do to build trust with your customers.
Trade Coffee aims to sell fresh coffee from community roasters and shows how those values affect customers on their home page. If you don’t have your brand story down pat yet, think of ways to connect your mission to the benefits your product provides your customers.
Looking for more inspiration for your brand story? Try creating a strong value proposition first, then tying that value proposition back to your brand’s history.
Use real images
Stock images are often better than no images on a website, but they don’t show customers what your brand and product really are. They can’t beat pictures of the real thing.
Share real photos of your team members, your product, and your customers in your marketing. If you have room in your budget, get a photographer to take professional photos. Running short on money? Find the team member with the best phone camera, pose an employee or product up against a neutral background, and press that button.
Look for the people who make your brand unique and share their pictures instead of photos of a stock model you’ve never met. In cases where you do need to use stock photos, though, look for ones that look natural over ones that are clearly posed. Natural-looking stock photos are still a great way to improve your marketing’s imagery.
So far, we’ve talked about adding authenticity to your brand’s look, feel, and messaging. But, you also build your brand as you interact with your customers. Your communication methods affect your customers’ perception of your brand.
If you want to build a truly authentic brand, you need to practice what you preach and stay transparent with your customers. Openness is key in any healthy relationship, including the one between you and your customers.
You probably hear more about brands breaking this rule than when they follow it. A brand makes a mistake and they take forever to follow up on it. Or, even worse — they don’t say anything about it at all.
Every brand messes up. When you make your next goof, keep your customers in the loop and apologize for the inconvenience.
Listen as much as you speak
When you market your brand, it’s easy to keep talking about yourself. It’s much harder — but also more important — to listen to what your customers have to say about your brand.
Take the time to be quiet and listen to your audience. You can adapt a lot of audience research methods, like surveys and social listening, for customer feedback purposes. Pay attention to what your customers say about your product and address concerns where you can.
Examples of Brand Authenticity To Help You Make a Profit
Let’s examine a few businesses that have profited from coordinating their marketing, mission, and product lines and talk about what they do to make us believe they are real brands.
Buffer is a social media management solution, and they’re known for their dedication to transparency both internally and externally. When the company was only seven people, the founders decided they needed to define what their culture was and put together a list of their values.
Buffer’s second value is “Default to Transparency, ” and this is evident throughout their company culture, product, and communication with customers. They even have a whole page on their website dedicated to transparency.
They’ve achieved this level of transparency by publishing employee salaries/equity and company financials online, showing internal metrics, and more.
By being direct, outspoken about their values, and consistent in acting on them. Buffer has built brand authenticity that is inspiring more tech companies to increase their own transparency. According to their recurring revenue calculator, transparency seems to be working. From 2015 to 2016, Buffer saw a 49.7 percent increase in their annual recurring revenue.
Chobani has come to dominate the Greek yogurt market because of its CEO’s unequivocal devotion to bringing delicious, high-quality strained yogurt to America. When Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, came to the U.S. he was unimpressed by the yogurt quality, so in 2005, when he discovered a recently closed yogurt plant was for sale, he jumped at the chance and bought it.
A firm believer in the notion that a business should impact local communities positively has affected the way Ulukaya runs his business. Chobani’s tagline is, “A cup of yogurt won’t change the world, but how we make it might.”
Combining his passion for quality yogurt made with natural ingredients, with his strong sense of duty to create a positive impact on local communities, has led people to view Chobani as an authentic brand making an honest product.
Ulukaya’s devotion to local communities and creating a happy, well-paid workforce has garnered his company valuable publicity. Ulukaya has advocated for raising the minimum wage, and in 2016 he gave 10% of the company to his employees.
Because of Chobani’s actions and quality products, the company comes out as an authentic brand. Chobani has now surpassed Yoplait in sales and market share, reaching nearly $2 billion in sales in 2016.
Zappos is perceived as an authentic brand because of how its CEO Tony Hsieh has built the company culture around ten core values:
- 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
These values are the heart and soul of the company. Hsieh is so deeply committed to delivering a “wow” experience that everyone, regardless of position, goes through the same four-week training as their call center reps. This is required so that everyone understands their customers’ pain points and will be able to deliver the best possible product and service in the future.
To ensure that everyone they hire wants to be there, and will, therefore, give the best service possible. Zappos offers a $2,000 quitting bonus after the first week of training. This might seem crazy, but it shows Zappos’ commitment to protecting and advancing its workplace culture.
Hsieh is unafraid to make massive changes in the company’s organizational structure. In 2013 Zappos made headlines when it announced it was embracing Holacracy, a ‘self-governing’ system that more evenly distributes decision-making within the organization. Hsieh made this move because he feared that without it Zappos would become less innovative and too bureaucratic as it continued to grow — diminishing their ability to deliver the “wow” experience.
Zappos carries its unconventional and quirky personality into its marketing as well. In a recent campaign #ImNotABox, Zappos used their packing to encourage customers to think outside the box. Recipients were asked to fold and cut the box into different items, including a smartphone holder, a geometric planter, and a 3-D llama.
Building brand authenticity comes from within and permeates every aspect of a company. Marketing as an authentic brand means investing the time to discover what your brand stands for. It ensures that your message aligns with your core values and actions.