We hear the word authenticity thrown around a lot. We’re told it’s what consumers want, but how do companies achieve it? When does “trying to be authentic” crossover to being unauthentic? How do you let your personality and the personality of the team behind your business shine through in a way that doesn’t feel forced but also doesn’t cross the line into oversharing?
To understand what makes for an authentic brand, we looked to some of the latest research surrounding authenticity. To start, the most important thing for a business to keep in mind is that “the No. 1 quality or behavior which people demand of big brands is communicating honestly about products and services,” according to a Fast Company article about the 2014 Authentic Brands Study. Now, this data is regarding big brands, but the fact is that the behavior consumers expect from big brands trickles down to how they feel smaller businesses should also meet their needs and wants. This reality might not seem ‘fair,’ but luckily the smaller your business is, the easier it should be to be an honest, authentic brand.
This desire for honest, open relationships can be tied to the economic downturn of 2008. As Fast Company shares, “The post-crash world appears to have become much more cynical about the behaviors and motive of corporations.” This general lack of trust is one of the reasons why the ‘Buy Local’ mantra has rang much louder in recent years and attributes to why business giant McDonald’s has seen declining sales in the last three years.
To embrace authenticity, consider the findings reported in the Journal of Business Research, which found that “consumers see three dimensions to brand authenticity: heritage, sincerity and commitment to quality,” according to the New York Times. We discussed the importance of incorporating your business’s roots in our recent blog post, Leveraging History, and a commitment to quality should be a no-brainer for any business. Yet, the concept of sincerity might be a bit tougher since it requires a dedication to sharing behind-the-scenes, real-time content on social media as well as using real language when interacting with customers digitally just as you would face-to- face. Sincerity also means letting your core values guide the company and giving back to your community in a way that matters to you. As VisionCritical emphasizes:
1. Identify your core values.
2. Engage with your customers.
3. Drop the corporate jargon.
These tips will help up your trustworthiness, but to take it to another level, you must rely heavily in sharing your stories through your blog, newsletter, website, and social media efforts--really through any and everything you do. Kissmetrics, an analytics and conversion optimization company, urges business to take storytelling seriously to improve trust: “Your story is inspired by the presence of people who participate, create, connect, and develop the saga of growth and success.” Those people include your customers first and foremost as well as your team, yourself, and the people who helped you get to where you are today. Kissmetrics offers a three-part way to develop your core brand story that will then guide the entire voice and persona of your company by identifying:
1. Explaining the problem you set out to solve.
2. Describe how you solved it.
3. Get excited about the success this produced.
So what’s your brand story? We’d love to hear it on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/integritive.