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Brand Authenticity Can Give You an Edge

Have you heard of brand authenticity as a differentiator yet? As a small business owner or marketer, buckle up. This is big. 


Over the past several years, I have shifted my purchases from large, faceless corporations to small, local businesses that are owned by real people. I love supporting fellow business owners, and I loathe giving my money to egomaniacs who treat their employees like garbage (cough, Bezos, cough).


What it comes down to is this: I want to spend my money with brands that resonate with me. I know who they are and what they value. I see them living their values, treating their employees and customers with dignity and respect and charging a fair price for their goods. 


Do I still shop at Target? Occasionally. Do I order from Amazon? Only if there’s no other choice. But the bulk of my money goes to brands that I perceive as authentic.


If this sounds familiar to you – if you also seek out brands that feel “real” – then you are right in line with the current zeitgeist. Brand authenticity is top of mind for consumers when making purchasing decisions.


I recently worked on a project for a marketing strategy and research agency, HawkPartners, to coincide with the release of their second Brand Authenticity Index. The report was absolutely fascinating, and I want to share an overview of what I learned. 


What is brand authenticity?


Brand authenticity is the extent that a brand clearly communicates with consumers who it is, what it stands for and how it lives up to those values. 


Why does it matter?


Because we are willing to go out of our way to support a brand we view as authentic. And then we talk about it. We tell friends and family, we post on social media, we evangelize about the brand to anyone who will listen. 


All this talking and sharing can have a massive impact on a company’s bottom line.


But don’t take it from here. These are just a few data points that HawkPartners uncovered during their interviews with consumers on the importance of brand authenticity:  

  • 9 out of 10 consumers say it’s important for a brand to be authentic.
  • 77% of respondents say they are more likely to spend money on a brand they perceive as authentic over one they don’t.
  • 80% of all respondents and 85% of millennials and Gen Z say authenticity is important or very important for brands. 
  • 69% of consumers say they would be likely to spend more money on a brand they perceive as authentic than a direct competitor they did not perceive to be authentic.
  • 57% of respondents say it’s more important that a brand is authentic after the pandemic.


How do you demonstrate authenticity?


Walk the walk – don’t just talk the talk


It’s so easy for a brand to say, “Black lives matter,” but it’s another thing to be an active member in the social and/or racial justice movement. You might not think anyone’s paying attention, but your clients are listening and watching what you’re doing.


Your audience wants to know they can count on you and your brand to do the right thing. A great example is Ben & Jerry’s. They have an entire page devoted to their Values. Here’s a snippet of their message:


“Guided by our Core Values, we seek in all we do, at every level of our business, to advance human rights and dignity, support social and economic justice for historically marginalized communities, and protect and restore the Earth’s natural systems. In other words: we use ice cream to change the world.”


I don’t know about you, but I always choose Ben & Jerry’s over other national brands when I’m at the grocery store. 


Tell your audience where you stand, what you believe in and how you live your values. If you talk about the importance of work-life balance but hold meetings at 7am or expect employees to answer emails on the weekends, you’ll damage your reputation.


Be honest and transparent


The index talks about the importance of honesty and transparency, two characteristics that go hand-in-hand. An honest brand tells the truth, no matter what. A transparent brand is forthcoming and freely shares information. 


The lessons here are simple:


Don’t lie – and don’t tell half-truths. 


If something goes wrong:

  • Be proactive and get information out before it leaks out.
  • Admit your mistake and apologize, quickly.
  • Share how you are handling the situation and what to expect next.
  • Follow through and tell people how the situation was resolved.


Let people behind the curtain to see how you operate:

  • If you produce and/or sell products, share where it’s made, who makes it, how they are paid and what their work environment is like. 
  • If you’re a service-based business, talk about the methods you use and why. 
  • If you employee people, talk about the benefits you offer and how that ties back to your company’s values. 


Deliver consistent experiences


People want to know what to expect when they work with you or buy from you. They don’t want surprises; they want stability.


If you say you’re going to do something, do it. And then do it the same way next time, and the time after that. 


This is so important for small businesses that rely on word of mouth. A new client expects to have the same experience their friend had. If they don’t, they’ll likely never come back (and they’ll complain about it – publicly). 


Be part of your clients’ lives


I found this part of the Index very interesting:


“Consumers with deep connections to a brand see the brand as similar to them and say the brand makes them feel better about themselves.”


If your brand is viewed this favorably, it means you’re doing everything else right. You are guided by a moral compass, you live your values, you are honest and transparent and you are consistent.


Congratulations – you have an authentic brand. 


Now, I’m not a brand authenticity expert, but my team and I are very good at writing content that is authentic to your brand. If you need help with brand messaging, give us a shout


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