We define authenticity as a characteristic of a brand that’s soundly based on a stated internal truth and/ or capability. The brand’s story and value set are clear and well grounded, and it delivers against the resulting high expectations it creates among stakeholders.
It’s all about the honesty
This is just one of many definitions of brand authenticity. No matter which one you adhere to, the most efficient first step to establishing as an authentic brand is to be honest and transparent whenever possible. Not only does this behaviour feel right for your employees, it’s also an operational safeguard: say or do something dishonest, and that deed will be memorialized digitally, perpetually poised to bite you on the aspirations someday in the future. Being transparent keeps you honest. It prevents you from claiming to be in service of a renewable energy future when somewhere in your ecosystem a subcontractor is trashing an ocean with an oil spill.
The path to advocacy and loyalty
Authenticity also leads directly to brand advocacy. You create deeper emotional connections with your audiences, through which you can tell powerful stories that reflect your values and purpose. If your brand stands for something that people are passionate about, they will stand for you. They become invaluable third party endorsers. It follows that this all leads to long-term loyalty.
There was a time when we would talk about authenticity as a differentiating tactic. That still holds true today, but we might argue that brands deemed inauthentic will soon be the exception as more and more organizations evolve because of the social justice movement that is holding us all to higher standards of behaviour.
Three steps towards brand authenticity
1. Be honest with yourself
Whether you are refining your current brand platform or crafting one for a start-up, take the time to get your team together and ask this single question: who are we? And, yes, be honest. This exercise with throw into high relief your people’s feelings about your brand: what it stands for and how it should act authentically to prove its commitment. You should see a clear connection between the outputs of this exercise and your brand promise. Perhaps it needs tweaking as a result. Being honest with yourselves helps ensure you’ll be honest with the world.
2. Say it through consistent actions
It’s just common sense, right? All the values and purpose expressed in a sincere brand voice get tossed out the window if your brand isn’t actively proving its commitment to what you stand for through an ongoing campaign of authentic actions. Regroup with your people and do a Stop Start Continue exercise to determine what you’re already doing right and what you need to do differently in order to be authentic. If you do the right thing, but only once, today’s savvy consumer will see through any pretense. They are demanding more authenticity from brands, and that’s good for everyone.
3. Refine and repeat
Things change. If we didn’t learn that from 2020, we’re in for a rough 2021. Set up a schedule with your people to regroup in a defined period of time to essentially repeat step 1. Ask yourselves again, who are we and what are we doing to prove it? Refine your authenticity tactics accordingly.