The Importance of Brand Authenticity
Looking around at the diverse consumer marketplace as it stands today, it’s no surprise how often brands tout mission statements and cultural values. What is surprising, however, are the number of companies failing to see the importance behind aligning with more than just the bottom dollar. In a digital landscape with no place to hide, a brand’s authenticity is what will foster growth amidst a sea of ever growing competition and help keep it afloat in times of PR crisis.
Tuning out advertising as it once was can no longer be controlled by the click of a remote or close of a magazine. Advertising has saturated every channel, every airwave, and even the most genuine of influencers in outward appearance can fall prey to touting product placements for hundreds of dollars a post.
Consumers are inundated with purchasing opportunities at every turn and because of this, they’ve developed a sort of immunity referred to as: short attention span. Consider this sea of skeptics and jaded viewers the audience and your brand the performer on stage.
In knowing that brand authenticity is important for engaging and keeping loyal customers, the question then becomes: how do you market to them when marketing in and of itself embodies the inauthentic? How do you keep conflict at bay while also using it to fuel the values your brand has built itself upon?
From politicians to celebrities, co-workers to family members, you’ve most likely encountered a situation wherein someone continuously boasts about a trait they do not have in hopes of convincing people they actually do.
Overcompensation, insecurity, neediness—brands fall prey to these very human qualities and actions just like everyone else. So, the more you say you’re authentic, the less likely it is that you actually are. A brand shouldn’t have to constantly plug the qualities that make it what it is. Those qualities should instead be exuded through the actions taken on behalf of a brand and content it produces.
Just as you expect National Geographic to deliver quality photography, you also expect them to adhere to a sense of education and attempt to bring the world a little bit closer together. Their Instagram—among other channels—speaks to this through the storytelling of photographers they employ from around the world. They don’t have to tell an audience what they stand for as a brand because it’s exuded in the feelings brought forth by their content strategy.
If you want your brand to relay a sense of authenticity to audiences, display it in a way people can relate to. Be human. Is there a greater purpose behind why your company does what it does? Who are the individuals purchasing your products or services and what do they care about?
Looking at the overall image of a brand like Patagonia, you begin to understand that their mission goes far beyond selling designer outdoor clothing and gear. They aren’t just selling things after all, they’re selling an idea; an idea rooted in social responsibility and positive environmental impact. They rally behind relevant initiatives and develop blog content around the stories of the people who represent everything Patagonia stands for.
Consistency and transparency walk hand-in-hand. Brands who are consistent across channels with the types of values and messaging they convey, often appear the most transparent to fickle customers always on watch. This goes back to the idea that the harder you try as a brand to tell people what you are, the less likely you are to be those things in the eyes of those who matter most to your future success.
Uber faced a lot of controversy this year because of just that. Amidst a variety of other scandals related to sexual harassment and discrimination towards women, controversy erupted around the Immigration Ban when Uber made moves to seemingly profit off striking workers in NYC.
Even with the CEO’s many attempts to talk the company out of a sticky situation, the actions spoke louder than words and led a number of users to delete the app in retaliation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, proactiveness from Lyft in aligning with their drivers and show support strengthened the brand’s reputation, bringing it to the forefront as Uber’s biggest threat for future growth.
Kevin Bugielski is the Marketing Manager for Victory Lap, a purpose-driven startup changing the sales game. Avid Snapchatter, SoulCycle lover, newfound runner, but ultimately, a foodie.