Authenticity is a crucial element in successful branding, especially in a consumer landscape that’s ultra-connected and discerning. Gone are the days when flashy advertising campaigns and empty promises could win over customers. By embracing authenticity and aligning actions with words, brands can foster trust, build long-term relationships with customers, and thrive in competitive markets.
In this article, I delve into the significance of authenticity in branding and explore the importance of delivering on the promises made in advertising, with some key examples.
Authenticity is needed to build trust between a brand and its audience. Consumers have become adept at recognising genuine brands from those that merely pay lip service to their values. By staying true to their brand identity, vision and purpose, companies can establish a strong foundation of trust. Consumers are more likely to engage with a trusted brand, they’ll feel more confident in their purchasing decisions and are more likely to become loyal customers.
Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer revealed that 86% of consumers consider brand authenticity to be a critical factor in deciding which brands they trust.
Credibility in messaging
Authenticity extends beyond having a genuine brand image. It also encompasses delivering on the promises and claims made in marketing. Brands that consistently align their messaging with their actions build credibility in the eyes of their customers. If a brand claims to prioritise sustainability, for example, but fails to follow through with eco-friendly practices in its operations, it risks losing the trust of its audience.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015 is a prime example of this. They were found to have manipulated emission tests for their diesel vehicles, a revelation which contradicted the brand’s claims of environmentally friendly and clean diesel technology. The incident severely damaged Volkswagen’s reputation, and resulted in significant financial losses, legal consequences, and a loss of trust from consumers.
By ensuring clear consistency between messaging and actions, brands can demonstrate their commitment to their values and reinforce their authenticity.
of consumers will stop purchasing from a brand if they perceive it as unethical.
Connecting on an emotional level
Authenticity has the ability to create an emotional connection between a brand and its consumers. By being transparent, honest, and genuine in their interactions, customers feel a sense of connection, which can help build brand loyalty and drive repeat business.
Outdoor clothing company, Patagonia has built its brand on being authentic with a strong commitment to environmental responsibility. They consistently deliver on their promise to produce high-quality products while minimising their environmental impact. From using recycled materials to advocating for fair labour standards, their transparency and genuine commitment to their values have earned them the trust and loyalty of customers who share their environmental concerns. They go so far as to provide local initiatives for their customers who want to do more for their planet – tapping into the common concerns of their audience and building a bond.
Differentiation in a crowded marketplace
In a crowded industry, authenticity can be the differentiator that sets a brand apart from its competition. Customers are drawn to brands that stand out by being true to themselves and delivering on their marketing claims. In a world where consumers are bombarded with an overwhelm of choices, authenticity becomes a powerful deciding factor. And when consumers are increasingly sceptical of exaggerated claims and hollow promises, a brand that does what it says it’s going to do is held in high regard.
A great example of this differentiation is Airbnb, who disrupted the travel industry by offering a platform that connects travellers with unique, local accommodation. The brand’s success can be attributed in part to their commitment to being authentic. Airbnb emphasises living like a local and experiencing genuine hospitality. By providing a platform where hosts can share their homes and create more authentic travel experiences, Airbnb has tapped into the desire of travellers to go beyond the traditional tourist experience, forging stronger connections between guests and hosts – something their competitors often struggle to achieve.
Managing reputation and crisis
In this era of instant communication, any inconsistency between your advertising promises and actual brand performance can be picked up quickly and damage your reputation. Consumers have a powerful voice and are quick to call out brands that fail to deliver on their commitments. However, when your brand is authentic and lives up to its promises, it becomes more resilient in the face of potential crises. Holding yourself accountable in times of adversity can help regain trust and mitigate reputational damage.
Being authentic: not just the latest trend
Authenticity is not just a buzzword in branding; it’s a must for businesses wanting to build meaningful connections with their audiences.
Where some brands fall foul is not understanding that authenticity requires a continuous commitment to remaining true to brand values and delivering on promises. Consumers crave authenticity and transparency, so embracing these principles is essential for sustained growth. And by doing so, it can cultivate a brand that resonates with customers, drives long-term success, and leaves a lasting impact in the hearts and minds of audiences.