When it comes to marketing, authenticity isn’t always the first word that comes to mind. After all, marketing is generally about achieving results through a carefully crafted image, and meticulously planned campaigns.
According to the developers of the Perceived Brand Authenticity Scale published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, brand authenticity is “the extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful toward itself, true to its consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers in being true to themselves.” In short, authenticity is about preserving your integrity, and remaining honest to your brand, your business, your core values and your customers.
How authenticity works
Authenticity defines your brand, and separates it from the competition. It’s not about providing a clear, black and white breakdown of all the pros and cons of your business, products or services (unless of course that is how you brand yourself). Instead, authenticity develops real depth for your identity, serves as a compass for internal processes and external communications, makes your brand relatable, and increases engagement.
Falling faith and falling sales
Business Insider UK recently reported that brand cynicism has reached startling levels: globally, 80% of consumers believe that “brands are not ‘open and honest’.” Compared to Western Europe, where only 7% of consumers describe brands as “open and honest,” consumers are much more trusting in China and the United States. In China, 36% of people “have faith in brands” and 23% of Americans believe brands are “honest.” Although significantly better than Western Europe, trust in brands in North America is declining, and having a noticeable market effect.
According to The Economist, “of the top 100 consumer packaged-goods brands in America, 90 lost market share” this year. Smaller brands perceived as more authentic have been taking bites out of the traditional market share. Smaller brands are generally perceived as more authentic. Only 36% of consumers believe that big companies will “do the right thing,” but that percentage rises dramatically to 50% when respondents were asked about small businesses.
Perceived brand authenticity is much easier to achieve when it is backed by a business, product or service that is genuinely superior, or at least has significant differentiators. North America’s craft beer industry has a potent mix of perceived authenticity, and a distinct (and arguably better) product. This allowed the craft beer industry to almost double its market share between 2009 and 2014, The Economist reports.
The power of brand authenticity crosses demographic lines but it is most salient amongst millennials. According to The Economist, the Boston Consulting Group revealed that “for younger ‘millennial’ consumers (born between 1980 and 2000), [authenticity] was second in importance only to rewarding their loyalty with discounts.”
Data from Statistics Canada shows that millennials represent 36.8% of the workforce. The proportion of millennials in the workplace will only continue growing. Ignore them at your own peril.
How to build an authentic brand
The idea of building or creating an authentic brand may seem contrary to principles of authenticity. Despite this apparent contradiction there are steps you can take to build an authentic brand.
1. Stick to your principles
To build an authentic brand perception, be an authentic brand. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Find your business’s core principles and stick to them in everything you do – your processes, communications, and marketing.
2. Provide real value in your marketing
Use content marketing to provide real value through information. Establish yourself as a reliable source for accurate, useful information in your industry.
3. Develop your story
There is no blueprint for authenticity, it is a hugely subjective, personal, and psychological concept. Developing your brand story is one way to show your brand’s authenticity. Stories connect with people on a deep psychological level through a process called neural coupling. According to Princeton researchers, when someone listens to a story their brains show the same brain activity as that of the story teller. How can you connect with your consumers through story telling?
- Your story needs to be about people and for people.
- Your narrative should reflect your core brand identity and your target market.
- Generally, brand stories begin with a problem (which leads to your solution) and end with an enthusiastic outlook for the future.
- Avoid traditional endings
- Remember that your brand, and your story will grow over time.
Most trusted brands
According to Cohn & Wolf, the world’s top 10 brands in terms of perceived authenticity are:
What do these ten brands have in common? They’ve all developed a brand identity that has depth, is relatable and engaging. When you provide and share your brand value through a brand story that is consistently communicated you’ll achieve the authenticity that fosters consumer trust and loyalty.