Authenticity in becoming increasingly important for engaging and retaining customers, but what makes a brand authentic and how can businesses use it to improve their performance?
Brand authenticity is hard to define but one thing is for sure, it is much more than just the product or service your business provides. True authenticity is built over time, with hard work, commitment and patience. It involves truly understanding your value to customers and consistently delivering on it.
That’s why it’s not surprising that brands like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft & Google led the way in Cohn & Wolfe’s Brand Authenticity survey. The PR firm released its list of the top 100 most authentic brands in back 2017.
As well as ranking businesses, the report highlighted the qualities that make a brand more authentic. Some of these include:
• Delivering on promises
• Treating customers with respect
• Providing high quality
• Protecting customer privacy
• Acting with integrity
• Being genuine and real
Together, these qualities form what has been labelled the 3 Rs for making a brand authentic: Reliable, Respectful and Real. Brands that deliver on all three of these factors are those that customers prefer and trust.
So how can your business adopt these qualities and make your brand more authentic? Here are our tips.
Be Reliable – provide great quality and keep your promises
This might seem obvious but unfortunately there is undoubtedly an authenticity deficit in the world today. Not all brands keep the promises they make, not all communicate with complete honesty, and not enough place the customer’s interests above their own.
If you deliver a consistently exceptional experience for your customers not only do they know they can rely on you which builds trust but it will help you stand out and shine in a cluttered world.
If you say you’re going to do something, make sure you do everything in your power to ensure you follow through with it – and where you are unable to keep that promise ensure you are transparent and explain why to your customers and what you’re going to do to make up for it.
Carlsberg recently launched a new campaign which sees the business take a long hard look in the mirror and question its own marketing and product over the last decade. Having previously claimed it was ‘Probably the best beer in the world’, it now admits it is ‘Probably not the best beer in the world. So we’ve changed it.’
The campaign is a platform for Carlsberg to admits it lost its way and was producing a product that was not good enough by their own standards or those of its consumers. The honesty in the new strategy aims to improve customer trust in the product and brand, something that Carlsberg hopes will boost people’s propensity to purchase both now and over the long-term.
Be Respectful – Put your customers at the centre of your brand
By far, the most important aspect of a brand’s authenticity is how central to its offer it places the customer.
It’s increasingly important to treat your customers as the most important part of your business – after all without them, you don’t have a business!
By focussing your brand strategy on benefiting your customers it will in turn benefit your business. You don’t need a major PR push to show the world how big or caring a brand you are. What you need are genuine efforts to deliver the basics and help your customers, by doing so your reputation will quickly grow in a positive way.
Don’t forget that what you do shows. Amazon was one of the earliest online retailers to dispose of shipping costs for good. It introduced options like a no-questions-asked return policy (which perhaps doesn’t sound revolutionary now but it was then). Today, programs like Amazon Prime and its third-party sellers’ program have become the linchpin in Amazon’s growth strategy. Each strategy coming out of the e-commerce giant directly aims to improve the customer experience, and the results speak for themselves: Amazon tops the lists of both the world’s most authentic and most valuable brands.
Be Real – Personalised communication helps customers engagement
One thing visible in the results of the Cohn and Wolfe study was that these companies are all very different from one another. Beyond the top five, that was dominated by technology companies, the top 100 varied widely from chocolates to hotels to consumer electronics. Authenticity isn’t driven by the product they were selling, but from their approach and how they were selling it.
The most successful brands make great efforts to communicate with customers in ways that feel personal to them. They see themselves as a productive part of the customer’s life, and each marketing message is personalised for them. They deliver best practices such as cross-cultural marketing, localisation, creating dedicated websites for different countries, and identifying as a local brand despite being a global brand.
How real you are determines how much your customers will trust you, and to establish that trust, you need to be honest in your words and actions and create meaning and relevance in your customers lives.