How Important Is Brand Authenticity?
There are lots of philosophies about branding. Sometimes we come across entrepreneurs who think the brand isn't important at all, as if it's some kind of new age mumbo jumbo. In reality, your brand is essential. Not only does your brand help consumers identify you, it should also be a relection of who you are; you individually and you meaning your collective company culture. Your brand should be honest and there's substantial evidence in support of that idea. That's the basic idea of brand authenticity. It means being honest and avoiding inconsistencies between your messaging and your product.
The Current State of Consumerism
Let's start by taking a look at the way consumers shop. Last year, only 12% of consumers said they did not incorporate reviews into their purchase decision.(1) That means 88% of consumers checked out reviews while they shopped in 2016. That implies that consumers want the hype to match the experience. In other words, they don't want to deal with BS. Since about the same share of consumers use the internet to research products and companies, we know that the internet is an extremely important link from consumer to brand.
So everyone uses the internet to shop and everyone wants a product that really holds up. They don't want to be disappointed and will do significant research to avoid disappointment. You better at least try to match your messaging with your product. That means don't tell me your stereo system is state-of-the-art if it's not. I'm going to find out and if I can't verify anything with reviews, I probably won't buy the stereo. Tell me about the product honestly and I'll decide if the price is right.
Don't Just Say You're Authentic
Be authentic. Your job will be easier if you are what you say you are. Just be true to your brand, not just in terms of the products and their advertising but also in terms of your company itself. Do you care about anything? Maybe you should support some causes. About 72% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause than one that doesn't.(2) Companies like Patagonia and Tom's (shoes) may not exist if it were not for our awareness of their causes. I know that when I buy a Patagonia product it is produced in an environmentally sustainable manner and that 1% of the profits will go to environmental charity. I know that when I buy a pair of Tom's, I'm buying a pair for someone in need as well. However, it doesn't have to be a cause that helps you connect to your market.
Stand out any way you can. Just make sure you're being true to yourself and that you're not contradicting any of your promises. The last thing you want to do is create a generic company. If you visit a website that's all black and white, with nothing but Time New Roman font, what are you going to think of it? It must be some kind of joke, right? It's certainly not a real company. Let your spirit pervade everything. Your logo. Your office space. Your uniforms. Your website. Your employees (as much as possible). Everything. Then share that spirit with your fans on social media and elsewhere.
How can we sum this up? Maybe the simplest way to put it is "have integrity." Brand authenticity matters in the information age. Even if you're a total weirdo, somebody out there is going to relate to your weirdness. Keep being weird and build your company culture with that weirdness. You won't be the first successful business that has done so. When you talk about your products and services, be honest. We're going to find out if you're not.