With the rise of the digital age, it’s no surprise that what the consumer values in the companies they patronize has changed. Long gone are the days of traditional advertising. Pristine, heavily shopped stock imagery and carefully crafted messaging no longer attract the way they used to. Social media has played a large part in that and has put brands -- both big and small -- on blast, broadcasting their every move and often, every mistake.
So let’s get real. When brands send mixed messages and try to cover up mistakes, it creates distrust which is enough to send followers abandoning the brand all-together to take their business elsewhere. A perfect example of this is the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Since the news broke that Facebook had collected data on millions of users, user trust has dropped by 66% with 23% claiming they’re likely to “log off” permanently (Ponemon Institute).
So what does the modern consumer value and what can we do to tap into that? With millennials spending over $600 billion dollars in the United States per year, with a projected spend of $1.4 trillion per year by 2020 brands have no choice but to shift focus on what’s important to this generation: brand authenticity. Although it’s become increasingly imperative to deliver brand-appropriate content that engages with audiences, studies have found 43% of millennials consider authenticity more important than content. Millennials prioritize truth, transparency, and companies that they can connect with on a community level. Companies that stand for something and remain faithful to their core values are able to help consumers remain true to theirs.
But how does a brand become authentic? Just remember “the Three B’s.” These components will fuel authenticity and create brand loyalty: being consistent, being true to your values, and being a part of something greater.
Consistency is brand authenticity at its most basic level. It’s your story, and you should stick to it. Whether your brand has been around for 5 years or 50, your actions as a whole should reflect your story as well as your core values. Knowing your mission and values is key to creating an authentic brand. Would you trust a person who told you one thing one day and the complete opposite the next? The answer is no.
Why then would a customer put trust in your brand if the story is inconsistent? A study conducted by the PR firm Cohn & Wolfe revealed that the number one quality people demand of big brands is honesty about their products and services.
The truth is, more and more consumers are holding brands to the same standards as they do people. If a company’s values don’t align with their own, they won’t give them their business. For this reason, it has become increasingly important for brands to tell a consistent brand story; any deviation from that could seriously damage reputation.
One of the simplest ways to remain consistent when it comes to your brand story is to define your values. You may know what these are in your mind, but if you don’t have them written down, you may have difficulty telling your audience the same story every time – nobody’s that perfect! All brands should take the time to identify what their story is and what values are important to them so they can stay true to them every time. At Sauce we help you define your story, core values, and mission as a brand in what we call a Simmer Session, where we come together to figure out what makes your brand your brand, creating authenticity.
Once you define your brand story and values, it’s time for some guidelines. Even if you’re a one man (or one woman) show, that may not always be the case. It’s important to map out how you will interact with your audience through messaging, strategy, and visuals using a style guide for others to follow as well as yourself. A style guide lays out and gives examples of what your brand looks like across all visual and communicative media, including print, social, website, and more. It eliminates any questioning on how your brand should be presented to the world, creating brand consistency and brand authenticity. Brands that lack a style guide leave room for error, but a brand that sticks to it remains consistent, and is seen as trustworthy in the eyes of the consumer.
Having a defined brand and style guide is one thing, but being a cold, hard corporate machine is another. Consumers buy from what they can relate to and they can’t relate to a heavily staged ad. They want to read, hear, and/or see a real story. Take the “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” campaign which tells the real story of the difference between how we see ourselves versus how others see us. The fact that women are overly critical of their appearance is one that all too many can relate to and is exactly why this ad did so well with its target audience.
Be A Part of Something (Greater)
You’ve defined your brand story, values, and you have your style guide. Now it’s time to raise your brand voice. Authentic brands set the standard for the great work a company can do in the community. “Corporate social responsibility...has been deemed important...with 48 percent...supporting brands that are active in supporting social causes.” Consumers are increasingly looking to buy from brands that use their influence to promote a greater cause.
One example of a brand that has consistently used its platform to promote a cause is Patagonia. Two years ago CEO Rose Marcario saw the value and need for environmental activism. Through her company and promotion of its values, Patagonia has since made great strides advocating for environmental sustainability and conservation. Here’s one example of the first of many campaigns run by Patagonia, whose environmental efforts resonated with consumers so much that the company saw a $600 million dollar increase in sales at the time of its release.
Patagonia proves that brands that set a standard in their community can expect to gain a few fans in return for their authenticity.
When it comes to creating an authentic brand, there are multiple ways to grow. No matter how well you craft your brand story, there will always be room for improvement. As long as you and your brand remain open with your audience and acknowledge that, it will continue to grow. And of course, if you require a little guidance along the way to creating your own authentic brand, call on Sauce.