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Does Your Brand Walk the Walk? (The How’s & Why’s of Brand Authenticity)

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For a long time, marketing and branding have been seen as the antithesis of authenticity. Indeed, from a business’s point of view crafting an image, that provided the perfect visage was the main aim.

However, with the advent of digital tech, and social media things have changed – a lot. No longer are potential customers impressed by how well a business bamboozles them into buying into the hype around their product or brand.

Instead what modern consumers want is to buy products that work from a company they can trust, and this is precisely where authenticity comes in.

The good news is you can read all about how to set your brand on a more authentic path, as well as some info on the benefits of being authentic in business below.

Authentic Brands Reap the Following Benefits

By walking the walk, rather than just talking the talk you can forge a robust brand that will stand up to the rigors and scrutiny of modern life. It’s not necessarily going to be easy, though, as there are some pretty substantial changes you will need to make in the way you do things.

However, there are so many benefits that your brand can reap by prioritizing a more authentic approach. The first of these is that brand authenticity will help your business stand out above your competition, giving you the edge you need to succeed.

Indeed, to confirm this all you need to do is to consider whom you would buy from given the chance? Someone honest and trustworthy, or someone flashy and willing to tell you anything you want to hear? Your brand needs to drive to be the latter.

Then there are the emotional benefits being more authentic can bring your brand. This is all about taking time to define your business’s values, that is the way you do things, as well as what you do, and making sure that your actions measure up. Indeed, by clearly defining your brand values, and following them you can appeal to people on a deep emotional level, something that can forge a bond far stronger and in a more meaningful way than any slogan ever could.

Practical Ways Your Brand Can Be More Authentic

Now you understand the value of being more authentic, let’s take a look at some practical ways you can enact this in the way you run your business and promote your brand, as well as some examples of brands that are already doing this well (and no so well!)

No More Mixed Messages

Ever worked with someone that is two-faced? Someone that says one thing and then does another? Unfortunately, that is pretty much how an inauthentic brand can come across.

This is because what you are doing is providing your customer with mixed messages, showing that neither trust nor consistency is important to the way that you operate in the world. Of course, this is a major problem, because if your business clearly doesn’t value consistency or trust, how can a customer trust you to do what you say you will and deliver?

With that in mind, your brand must be as consistent as possible, and this relates to the way you convey your messages as well as what you say. Indeed, it is essential here to make sure that you have clear guidelines for your brand that cover things such as voice, and type, font, color, and other aspects of visual branding such as the images you use.

Of course, the one thing that may not be consistent is the platform you use to reach your customers. Indeed, using a variety of platforms from different types of social media, to advertising, and direct marketing can be very effective. Just as long as the voice and branding you choose while using them is consistent.

A real-world example: Colgate ready meals

Toothpaste moguls Colgate have an international brand to be proud of. You might even think they could pivot their brand and offer just about any product and they would be successful? Well, this was certainly not the case when in the 1980s Colgate decided to bring out their own line of ready meals.

The line was a resounding disaster, despite ready meals and toothpaste both being things that concern the mouth. Indeed, this foray into frozen food was far too much of a mixed message for consumers and was speedily terminated.

Define and Act by Your Values

One of the most vital aspects of crafting an authentic brand is that you act in line with your values. What this means is that you need to take the time to define your values in the first place.

Values should be verbs or doing words in that they relate to the way that your business acts in the world. They should also fit neatly with your brand story, brand promise and be ways of acting that you can do on a day-to-day basis.

The key to choosing the right values is to work out what really matters to your business. Of course, any brand worth their salt will use information about what matters to their target demographic to help shape their choices as well.

However, it’s important to remember that it’s more than just about agreeing with your demographic on what matters, but being able to follow it through and demonstrate a real commitment to these things as well. Indeed, without the latter part of the equation, you run the risk of coming across as inauthentic instead.

A real-world example:  Skittles and the LGBTQ+ rainbow

Slapping the Pride rainbow on products and containers seems to be par- for the course these days. However, it is whether brands act in a way that is consistent with promoting equality that really matters to consumers.

In fact, without socially responsible work in this area such as raising money for LGBTQ+ charities, gestures can seem empty at best, and cynical at worst. Thus creating the opposite effect than the brand intended as well as plenty of criticism.

Unfortunately, the sweet brand Skittles’ (owned by Mars) ‘Only one rainbow matters’ campaign seems to have fallen foul of this issue. With some calling the campaign tone deaf! Indeed, it does seem to be more about the presentational aspect of social responsibility, with only vague suggestions that proceeds from the pack will go towards LGBTQ+ charities.

Another real-world example:  The Beachbody Company

There are some examples of when a brand has set its values and authentically acted on them.

In particular, fitness giant The Beachbody Company started the Beachbody Foundation to facilitate their values of social responsibility. Indeed as one of their core values is ‘health and wellbeing for all’ they have gone beyond offering this not only via their products, but also walk the walk by donating money to causes such as NAACP, Hope of the Valley, Polaris, IJM, and Serving Veterans.

By being active in the realm of social responsibility The Beachbody Company demonstrates several important things to their customers. The first is that they have goals that are broader than just making profits. While the second is that can be relied upon to outwork their values in the things that they do, something that not only shows them to be more trustworthy to customers but also allows them to engage and resonate with customers on an emotional level, forging a bond that is far harder to break.

Admit When You Are Wrong

Few of us enjoy admitting when we are wrong personally, but it can be doubly difficult for a business to own up to its mistakes. After all, most businesses have spent a great deal of time, money, and effort honing a capable and professional business image. One that they do not want to contradict publically.

The thing is, that people, and customers, in particular, don’t respond well to claims of perfection. Instead, a much more constructive way of crafting your brand’s identity is with authenticity. Yup, that means being more human, more humble, and admitting when you get things wrong.

The great thing is that there are so many ways to do this now. One of the most obvious and most effective is by addressing customer complaints on independent review sites. Of course, you need to do this the right way, that means staying professional, listening to what people have to say, and taking action to make it right. However, by doing this you can not only build bridges with customers that have had a less than satisfactory experience but also convince potential customers that are authentic and trustworthy as well.

A real-world example: KFC

Another way of doing this is best demonstrated by the very funny campaign KFC did below.

Here KFC took what is essentially a major disaster – not having any chicken when changing suppliers and made it into a joke that they are both aware of and at the same time apologizing for. Now, this is certainly not the easiest thing to do, but when pitched right, such a method can help your brand come across as authentic and having a sense of humor all at the same time.

Final thoughts

Being more authentic and real with your customers can lead to several important advantages, and allow your business to differentiate itself from its competitors.

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