#OwnYourTruth, #Unapologetic, #KeepingItReal. We have all seen these hashtags and we understand what it means from a personal perspective, but what does it mean for a brand?
New Harris Poll research commissioned by Google Cloud, reveals how US shoppers are starting to think about brands in a novel way. As much as the answer to “How much does it cost?” continues to be a major driver in the decision-making process, consumers are also paying close attention to the values of brands. The research revealed that 82% of shoppers would happily support a brand with values that align with their own no matter the difference in price against competitors; this statistic is further cemented with 75% of shoppers testifying to parting ways with a brand over a conflict in values.
With information just a click away, consumers are up-to-date with everything they need to know about your brand. This combined with ‘call out’ culture on social media – there is no place to hide for brands that do not live up to their values.
So how can a brand translate these trending ideals successfully to prove #authenticity?
Firstly, what is brand authenticity? It can be simply defined as a brand who its consumers believe in its brands values, and trust in its products or services. This is a brand that is wholly transparent and consistent.
Sifting through a plethora of articles on the best guidelines in attaining brand authenticity, I also conducted some research with my teenage daughter. Born in late 2008, she is the perfect mix of Gen Z and Gen Alpha. She gave me some pointers on what makes her generation deem a brand authentic.
This introspective view coupled with the gems extracted from my online research resulted in four top tips that will assist in improving your brand’s authenticity – and It’s going to take more than just a fancy photoshoot to portray this creatively. Instead, this authentic sense must rather be deep-rooted as part of the brand.
Tip 1: Get real
Influencers and celebrities endorsing a brand will always have a place in the marketing strategy whether it’s towards building awareness, increasing sales or lending credibility to a new product. But for a brand to be authentic, consumers want to hear and see real genuine stories which will enable them to make a positive connection with the brand.
According to the Sprout Social Index 2022, data shows that amongst consumers in US authenticity is listed as the second most important creator trait.
With so many brands now using Influencers – why not choose to be different and use real, honest storytelling that will leave your consumers feeling warm and fuzzy. Centre the stories around your USP, for example: Take an educational institution, which currently is a high interest market many competitors. Instead of telling consumers your fees are low and qualifications are accredited, change the narrative. Post about the success story of a qualified student who is now working and thriving and praising (insert your brand here). See, already feeling warm and fuzzy.
Tip 2: Don’t join the bandwagon
This is one of my daughter’s pet peeves that brands often mistakenly do. Come 1st June, our timelines are filled with brands clamouring on the Pride month bandwagon, which is expected. According to research by LGBT Capital, as it stands, the global annual spending power of the LGBTQ community is touted at $3.9 trillion, and it continues to grow.
During this period, logos take on a rainbow hue, and new hashtags are born. But a mere month later, brands move on to the next hype until the cycle repeats. They forget to be consistent in their messaging and values, to stand true to their commitments. As a result, they lose credibility. Pledging support to a cause based on its trend value leaves consumers with the impression of those brands being cheap opportunists monetising on a cause that matters to them.
Rather be a brand that is a consistent supporter of these commemorative events (eg Pride Month, Breast Cancer, World Disability Day). Take ownership of displaying a positive role on diversity and inclusion, and in progressing societal mindsets.
Tip 3: Spare a thought
When a brand plays an active role in constructive development beyond profit, it becomes a continuous process of purposeful commitment. These philanthropic gestures when aligned to causes that matter to the target audience leads to deep rich engagements, and most importantly builds authenticity as the brand is living up to its values for all to see.
According to a study online, Millennials are most likely to spend 70% more on brands that support causes they care about. Giving back can be achieved in different forms – whether its financial funding in form of bursaries, development of infrastructure, bio-degradable packaging – it’s the responsibility that consumers are expecting from their brands they support. Through complete transparency and authenticity, these brands can make a positive change. Think Checkers – Swipe for Good; Woolworths – My School; KFC – Add R2 for Hope.
Tip 4: Conversations
“Thank you for your feedback and support”.
“We appreciate the message”.
“Please send an email to customer service detailing your experience”.
Many would argue a response albeit generic, is better than no response at all. A generic response to a negative review or any mention can be seen as not wanting to engage; not putting in enough effort, or just not caring.
Speaking to your consumers on a first name basis, liking their comments when they tag your brand and responding to their questions or concerns goes a long way in building brand authenticity. Personalised two-way communication humanises the brand and increases your authenticity. Start talking to your customers, not at them.
At the end of the day, consumers are supportive of brands that are true to their well-defined values – and not just paying lip service.
Arisha Saroop is managing director of The MediaShop Durban.