Modern businesses need to be true.
In today’s information rich world brands can no longer afford not to be authentic. The more online and virtual our lives become, the more consumers crave after something genuine. What customers want is to experience a brand. And when they do they want to know that it is real.
They want the experience to be consistent with every aspect of that brand - with what it offers, its vision, mission, values and promise.
They want consistency with the story it tells. From viewing a website, to walking around a store, to unpacking a product, reading packaging or joining an event - if the customer experience does not measure up to the brand promise, in every aspect, customers become increasingly disenfranchised.
On top of a general desire for consistency of experience, how brands behave is becoming increasingly important. With customers having access to a vast amount of information and news, if a brand behaves inconsistently it will be discovered. We only have to think about brands who have been boycotted for the amount they pay in tax in contrast to their claims of being builders of society. Bad PR and social media can put businesses out of business.
It's never a good idea to try and pull the wool over peoples eyes. People will not be fooled. The truth will out and untold damage will be done. They want authenticity in what a brand says and how it's run. What it actually does in the world and how its leaders and staff behave.
Authenticity in branding
With this in mind, when building a brand it is essential that the key building blocks are
indeed authentic. What do we mean by this?
Well, in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, an article defines perceived brand authenticity as: “the extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful and true toward itself and its consumers, and to support consumers being true to themselves"
Simply put, brand authenticity means that a brand is real. It's true. It truly reflects the beliefs of the leadership team and staff effecting it.
How to find brand truth
A brand is the "meaning people attach to you and your audience". Branding is the "management of meaning". Therefore the first step to find brand truth is to define the meaning (and the truth) that the brand needs to stand for. You can do this through collaboratively working through workshops with your leadership team and infusing your brand definition with customer insights. At a high level, I believe leadership teams need to know the answer to four key questions:
Why do we exist beyond making money?
Who do we exist to serve and why should they care?
How should we show up and win?
What do we offer and promise?
Next this needs to be communicated and lived.
Brands are controlled by people. So there is a huge amount of work businesses need to do to infuse branding thinking into their cultures. This does not happen by accident. It needs to be built and designed. It needs to have rewards and metrics and routines and rituals - all supported by leaders who are bought into the brand truth.
Employee experiences and journeys need to be considered. Wellbeing. Employer value propositions. All needs to be aligned to the brand truth.
Once the brand begins to tell its story, once its messaging is aligned to its truth and once it begins to be known for something - it must stay true to itself.
How? The simple answer is by listening. Gaining insight into customer attitudes by keeping on top of social media comments and completing customer surveys are great ways to ensure that a brand is delivering on its promise. If it’s not, customers will soon let you know. They aren’t afraid to air their grievances. If something in their experience of your brand doesn’t measure up as being ‘genuine’ it will get called out.
So businesses need to design feedback loops. Design ways of measuring their impact. Beyond products and services. To measure emotion, feelings and perception. We need to design and map the customer experience and ensure we are tracking how customers feel about it.
Once this is in place the insights gleaned need to be acted on. It's essential for the modern business to innovate and continue to review themselves in the light of their brand story and their customers’ experiences and continue to seek to close any gaps. To stay relevant. To stay true.
How is your brand doing with being true?