Anti-spam software, ad-blockers, increasing data privacy regulations… It’s not as easy as it used to be for companies to reach out to potential new customers. In this new era of consumerism, brands can no longer afford to provide irrelevant, non-personalized content to its audience; they risk losing almost all communication means to interact with customers. On the one hand, consumer-centric approaches have, surely, increased customer retention and loyalty; but on the other hand, these approaches have made it significantly more challenging for companies to gain visibility amongst new customers. 86% of consumers choose authenticity as an important criterion when it comes to deciding which brands they support, and that number reaches 90% amongst millennials. Brands can therefore no longer afford to talk the talk without walking the walk, if they want to survive this new era of consumerism. But what does this actually mean for businesses? How can they actually be authentic and stand out from their competitors? As marketing plays a crucial role in a company’s success, let’s have a look at how you can incorporate brand authenticity into your marketing actions.
Establish your company values and spread them across your channels
First things first: if you want to be authentic, you have to define what you stand for. One example illustrating this is the ethical clothing company Erverlane, who does not only claim to live for ethical manufacturing, long-lasting quality, and price transparency, but clearly shows how the company and its employees strive for these values. While shopping on their page, consumers are constantly reminded of the fact they are taking part in something good. These values are repeated across their social media channels, not only in their bio but also in their social media posts. Whether browsing the Everlane’s website or checking the brands’ social media, consumers are reminded that when they choose to purchase one of the Everlane’s products, they are doing something ethical and good for the environment.
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So what does this mean practically for you? Well, it’s actually quite simple: take the time to sit down and define your company values. Who is your company? How do you work? Once you’ve established that, make sure to truly respect your values in everything your company does: there needs to be consistency between your values, branding and messaging. Share these values on your “about page”, integrate them into your content, and of course, make sure your employees understand and live up to them.
Find your tone and stick to it
No matter how diverse your audience is, there is always this specific segment that represents your target audience. When finding your tone, these are the people you have to think about. How do they speak? What do they like? What vocabulary do they use? Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to establish your tone. This tone should shape the way you communicate on all of your marketing channels. As consistency is key, it’s even better if only a small number of people are involved in content production, as it’s then easier to manage a unified style. Also, make sure that these people naturally interact the way they’re supposed to do on your channels, in order to make your content truly authentic. Don’t forget that authenticity is not something that you can fake! If you have several people involved, it might be useful to build a style guide encompassing your brand voice, your target audience, the types of cultural references they like, etc. and distribute it to all the team members or agencies involved. The last thing you want to convey is a sort of schizophrenic message to your audience. Got it? So now, it’s time to start talking.
Bring meaningful, honest and transparent conversation to your audience
If you thought that you could first sell and then connect with your customers, we’re sorry to tell you that that’s not how things work anymore. Since today’s customers buy a brand’s values rather than its products, it has become essential for companies to connect with their audience, and to do so before they actually sell anything to them. Customers need something that motivates them to buy. In today’s world, companies have to cultivate a two-way communication with their audience. Restraint from talking only about your company, and rather bring value to a broader theme. “But how can I do that?”, you might ask. First of all, show your expertise in your industry. You’re in that business for a reason, aren’t you? Use this expertise to hold debates and conversation on your social media platforms: this will not only increase engagement on your page (and therefore more reach), but also show your audience you know what you’re talking about and that you’re accessible.
Another thing you can do to show you are honest and transparent is to always respond to your follower’s questions, positive or negative comments. No matter what inquiry they may have, always respond to them promptly: this will show that you care about your audience, and of course, will convey more authenticity for your brand. In terms of how you respond to this audience, make sure that you do not only have a consistent tone, but also that you are always respectful and transparent with them.
Connect with consumers through stories
We all know that storytelling plays a significant role in connecting with people, and the same goes for brands and their customers. Storytelling is not only one of the most powerful tools in communication, but also one of the most effective ways to enhance a brand’s authenticity. There are several ways and channels for storytelling, and of course different types of stories that can support your efforts in authenticity. Considering the fact user-generated content is seen are 3 times more authentic than company-generated one, you might want to include your customers in some of your content. It could be sharing case-studies showcasing your customers’ real opinions, like WW’s For Every Body campaign; sharing some of their social media posts (with their consent, of course) as GoPro does so well; or including “real” people in specific projects, such as the Getty Images, Dove and Girlgaze Project #ShowUs. On another note, if you want to humanize your brand a little more, you could consider sharing your employees’ stories via behind-the-scene pics or videos, humanize your manufacturing process by telling your customers -like LUSH with its stickers– who packed their products, or even interview your employees, as Stylight for example does on its corporate blog.
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Meet Gene and Maria! They're a real mother/son duo working in our distribution center at Lush HQ – Gene picks and packs online orders while Maria wraps gifts. Here's what Maria had to say about working with her son: . "We love working with each other, since sometimes I get to work with him in his department. And because we have a common love which is our Lush products, we are very happy." . Who better to wrap and pack your Mother's Day gifts than this mother-son duo? Tap our link in bio to shop Mother's Day. 💕✨
Choose carefully who you partner with
Remember the Lego and Shell co-branded partnership scandal? If someone had told Lego what was going to happen to them after their 2011 partnership renewal with the oil and gas company, they would probably have thought twice before partnering with the brand in the first place. If there is one thing that can really backlash right into your face, it’s definitely a partnership with the wrong brand. Carefully select the companies/individuals you want to work with, and make sure the values they promote fit with yours. If sustainability is one of the values you promote, you might want to restrain from associating your brand with an influencer flying from one domestic city to the other every weekend, or one partnering with other brands that live miles apart from your own values.
Contribute to a social cause and stand for it
We talked about this before: when buying your products, your clients need to know they are doing something good, or at least more meaningful than they would do with one of your competitors. When shopping on the sustainable clothing brand TWOTHIRDS, customers know that only European adults are involved in the products’ manufacturing and that they are participating in marine environment preservation. However, make sure that you don’t overcommit to every single good cause there is out there. Again, consistency is key: choose to address a social issue that is aligned with your values, and to which you actually can contribute. Once you’ve chosen which cause your company should support, actually act on: you should actively campaign for your chosen cause, and use your own brand awareness to raise attention, support volunteering actions and generate donations. And don’t be afraid to lose some audience on the go: if the cause you support is actually important to your company, you shouldn’t mind losing a few adverse customers. Recently, the fashion label Diesel has made a huge stand by celebrating losing followers after supporting the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Week.
You must have gotten the message by now: brand authenticity is nothing if inconsistent and faked. Rather than claiming your authenticity, use the marketing tools available to you to show you are an honest, trustworthy brand that does more than sell products to consumers. Make your customers know that they make the world a better place by choosing you.