If your brand strategy isn't informed by brand authenticity, you could be wasting your time. Brand authenticity isn't something you acquire through SEO or social media sharing. It’s simply your brand's commitment to its core values—the answer to the question why do you do what you do. There are no shortcuts to brand authenticity because it requires that you consistently deliver on what your brand promises.
People Know Authenticity When They See It
If you focus on pushing for profit in hopes your brand will magically emerge, you're putting the metaphorical cart before the horse. Brands strengthen and evolve by remaining dedicated to the organizational mission and effectively communicating this without coming across as smug. It's not easy! Times will change, technology will change, and markets will change, but authentic brands remain relevant because genuine authenticity is always relevant.
Why Keeping It Real Matters in Your Brand Strategy
The world is a completely different place than it was 50 or 60 years ago, when the stars of popular television shows spent a minute or two at the top of the hour telling you why you should drink Maxwell House Coffee. That sort of "top-down" branding simply doesn't resonate as much in a world where so much information is available at any given moment. Rather, consumers want real relationships with brands, a relationship based on honesty, consistency, and integrity.
Those are the kinds of qualities that aren't necessarily conferred along with front page Google results. They mean more to people because they are more substantive. You don't come by honesty, integrity, and consistency through shortcuts, and if you try to fake any of those things in an always-on world with constant global access to information, it's only a matter of time before you're found out and it backfires spectacularly.
Why Consumers Respond Positively to Authentic Brands
Anyone can make a web page or a social media profile and make just about any statement look official and professional. And industries from shoes to airlines use many of the same tools (such as celebrity endorsements and content creation) to communicate their brand strategy. Consumers may like a lot of that content, but they're smart; they know what it is, and they know how easy it is to talk the talk in an online world. What's not easy is carrying out a brand strategy that successfully builds a genuine emotional connection with customers through storytelling, communication of company values, and more importantly, delivering on those company values. Authenticity in brands matters because it is fundamental to reaching people in the first place.
The Key Components of Brand Authenticity
Responsibility and integrity are primary motivators of authenticity. The nuts and bolts of brand authenticity will naturally differ depending on whether you're selling snow tires or perfume, but there are some commonalities that help ensure authenticity is built into brand strategy:
- Authentic brands offer continuity and are faithful to their core values
- Authentic brands have genuine credibility with consumers
- Authentic brands are motivated by responsibility and integrity
- Authentic brands want customers that are true to themselves
In other words, authenticity is much more than a one-dimensional attribute. It has symbolic, psychological, and subjective value.
And don't make the mistake of thinking you can fake authenticity. We live in a world where massive amounts of information from every corner of the globe is available 24/7 and a single Tweet can resonate with millions in a matter of seconds. Authenticity has to be underpinned by integrity, consistency, and knowing why you do what you do. In today's world, you can count on dishonesty being exposed sooner or later.
But that's good news, because if developing brand authenticity is built into the day-to-day work of your company, you are ultimately building more value than companies that try to game the system or think of authenticity as nothing more than a buzzword or marketing tactic.
Know What You're About.
To deliver the right marketing message, you first have to strategize and craft that message, and you can't do that without knowing what you're about. When you answer those important questions (like "Why do we do what we do?") first, you start to understand what authenticity means in terms of your brand, and when you understand your own brand authenticity, communicating it to the rest of the world is straightforward and simple. Jean-Paul Sartre posited that "Existence precedes essence," and this makes sense in terms of authenticity. "This is who we are and what we do or make, and that's why our 'essence' is perceived in a particular way." Knowing what you're about is an essential part of the foundation on which you build branding success, and it's something that can't be faked.