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Shake the Hand of Authenticity

Published on September 25, 2018, at 12:05 p.m.
by McClelland Schilling.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Brand authenticity is sweeping the communications landscape, and it looks like it’s here to stay. Some of the most successful organizations are capitalizing on transparency and integrity, and the results have not been disappointing.

From social media platforms to customer services, brands are focusing their energy on engaging with customers and building intentional relationships. No longer can organizations get away with cold and imprecise messaging. Consumers now hold brands to the same standards as they would a close friend. They want real; they want honesty.

In a global survey conducted by Cohn & Wolfe, participants were asked what they valued most in a brand. The results found that authenticity was ranked above innovation and product uniqueness. Another survey found that consumers value transparency and honesty so much that 73 percent are willing to pay more for them. Both surveys further prove that regardless of the product, consumers would rather invest in a company that exudes sincerity and makes a continuous effort to genuinely know its customers.

While it’s easy to claim “authenticity,” how can you ensure that your brand isn’t just talking the talk, but walking the walk? Here are some tips to keep your brand in check:

Start a conversation.
Communication is crucial to any great relationship, and this is no different when it comes to brands and audiences. Consumers are talking 24/7, and companies can’t afford to not be a part of the conversation.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

But, it’s not enough anymore to just respond. Consumers are tired of sterile and dull replies. They don’t want to feel like they are talking to someone from the social media department. Instead, they want to feel like they are speaking to a living and breathing brand.

Wendy’s is excelling in this area with its unique social media strategies. A quick scroll through its Twitter page reveals the brand’s witty personality and shows how highly engaged Wendy’s is with its followers. Wendy’s illustrates how developing a voice that speaks to the personality of your brand, and one that is relatable to your target audiences, is pivotal in gaining and maintaining brand loyalists.

Have something to believe in. 

Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash

Whether it be your company values or a noble social cause, find something to believe in and run with it. Having shared values is the reason 64 percent of consumers said they had a relationship with a brand. Showing your consumers you are passionate about something humanizes your brand and reveals that you believe in more than just benefitting your bottom line.

Patagonia is a perfect example of a brand that chooses to back a worthy cause. Its support of ecological sustainability earned it thousands of new fans and $600 million in revenue.

Honesty is the best policy. 
Honesty and authenticity go hand in hand. If you want your company to be viewed as authentic, you have to make being honest about your brand and products a priority. Panera showed its commitment to honesty with its well-received “Food As It Should Be” campaign that was used to announce the end of its use of artificial ingredients and to release a more transparent menu.

In addition to straightforward messaging, utilizing customer-created content and reviews is a great way to build trust with your audience. Not only do customers like to see themselves as a part of a brand, but they are also more likely to trust someone similar over immediately trusting what the brand says. If your brand is as great as you think it is, using raw and honest content generated by consumers will be to your advantage.

Stop saying you’re authentic. BE authentic.
It feels redundant to say just “be authentic,” but so many brands have found themselves caught in the cobweb of trying too hard to convince consumers that they are authentic. All it does is backfire and leave a sour taste in the mouths of consumers. In the world of authenticity, less is more.

Instead of trying to put on a façade, redirect your energy toward efforts that will result in the authentic image you desire. Really listen to your consumers, make them feel a part of your brand, and believe in what they believe in. Be brave enough to cross the threshold of insincerity and impersonalization, and shake the hand of your consumer

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