Brand Authenticity. It’s a powerful, all-encompassing promise that a brand makes to their brand community. It’s what makes a person decide to sport a check on their shoes instead of three parallel lines. But it’s much more profound than that. It’s what a brand stands for, their practices, the culture, and the way they do things. If you’re confused, there is a major difference between brand authenticity and brand transparency. Being authentic means a brand will show consumers who it wants to be and what they want to do. Transparency is actually doing the damn thing.
Brand Authenticity vs. Transparency
Brand Authenticity vs. Transparency. Let’s break it down. Take the Black Lives Matter movement as a prime example. A movement that had recently been at the forefront of every social media post, article, and news segment. And yet, here we are, a few months later and things have really slowed down. Where is all the frustration, rage, screaming, and protesting that we felt? Did it die and become replaced by the next trendy movement? It was cool to post a black square, black stories, black creators. How about now?
It starts with marketing. Little boys and girls seeing themselves represented in mainstream media and on social platforms. And more so, feeling included and wanted by a brand. Are brands still using black models in their advertising? Hiring BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in their offices? Did they mean it when they said #BlackOutTuesday and #AmplifyBlackVoices? Or was it all performative action and diversity hires? In a few months, will their Instagram feeds return to a mundane nothing-darker-than-a-paper-bag colour scheme? When BIPOC employees shared their racist encounters in the workplace, did brands listen and implement new policies, advocating for real change? We’re watching you. We hope you stick to your words and do better. If you don’t, well, there might be dire consequences.
Let’s take a look and see which brands are really up for doing all the difficult, internal work that comes with this type of shift. Because true brand community comes with following through on these promises that were made, not hopping on the ‘woke’ trend.
Why Authenticity Is So Crucial
While brand authenticity might not matter to some Boomers out there, newer generations are a different story. Millennial and Gen Z spending is coming in hot. Brands need to get on board with authenticity or kiss precious Millennial / Gen Z dollars goodbye. And eventually, that lack of money means the brand community is left a ghost town. In an age of cancel culture, it’s so easy for a brand to trip up and be ruined forever. You have to be incredibly careful with the story you’re putting out as a brand, and the actionable steps you’re taking to follow through. People can smell inauthentic messaging a mile away, ok Karen? This generation is sitting on their bean bag chairs, munching away on avocado toast, fingertips at the ready to call out brands for false information and empty promises. The solution? Don’t sell consumers BS and follow up on every promise you’ve made, or the next thing your logo will see is a thick, red line through it. Your competitors will celebrate at the wake, slicing themselves a bigger piece of the pie. Then, there’s really no coming back.
Let’s lighten the mood and discuss what happens when a brand somehow gets their brand authenticity right. Simply put, MONEY happens. Customers are loyal, so much so that they’ll favour your brand’s product over an alternative and tell everyone about how great the brand community is. It means brands can be vulnerable with their messaging and tell the truth. No need to hide behind a PR statement. Talent wise, you’ll have all the best in the business coming to you, sending you pitches and proposals about why they should be your next hire. They desperately want to be part of your brand’s company culture and values. A very difficult feat, one to be proud of. Your competitors will copy you. How does that feel? Knowing you’re the industry leader, offering unique value propositions that none of them have? You win all around if build your brand community the right way.
Brand Authenticity: You Can’t Fake It and Hope to Make It
Now, if you fake brand authenticity, eventually you’re going to face a horde of problems with consumers. Let’s liken this concept to a healthy relationship. Faking it means your partner isn’t going to trust you anymore. It might end your relationship altogether. Faking it means your partner might get bored and want to switch partners to try something new. Faking it might mean your partner dissuading others from giving you a chance. Are you getting what we’re saying? Newer generations don’t trust traditional advertising anymore. They want transparency, to see the values, charity work, and causes that a brand stands for before handing over their hard-earned dollars. These factors are extremely important to Gen Z and Millennials when they are deciding which brand to engage in a relationship with, and where their loyalty will lie. Don’t let branding become so entangled with storytelling that the authenticity is lost and becomes fiction. Pissing off your consumers this way will cost you. If they disagree with what you’re saying, they’ll use their voice on social media to utterly destroy you, creating viral posts outing every one of your indiscretions, burning your brand community to the ground. You’ll lose the valuable trust you’ve built with loyal fans of your brand, and we all know how detrimental this can be.
If you remember anything from these insights on brand authenticity, let it be this: Be authentic in all aspects of your brand and it’ll flourish. Try to fake it, just don’t be surprised when you get caught and burn through so much brand equity, that fake is the last thing you ever do.