The importance of brand trust and authenticity isn't just lip service from marketing execs and brand experts.
Consider the data: Between 2009 - 2014, $18 billion in sales across all consumer packaged goods moved away from large companies to small companies. The number one factor? Loss of consumer trust.
Most businesses can't afford to lose $3.6 billion a year. Most wouldn't want to try. Yet many take this risk. They rely on other consumer motivators, like price or convenience. They use tactics or business relationships to gain market position. They assume profits and scale can shield them.
This might work for a while, but especially now with the wealth of information online and on social media, consumers are smart and can quickly pick an inauthentic brand out of the crowd. And while authenticity is a buzz word, all it really means at its core is that a brand is delivering true to its marketing messages. Here's how to think about it:
#1. It can't be manufactured.
Trust and authenticity can't be manufactured from something fake. You can't put lipstick on a pig. You have to start by being real. Companies get in trouble when they try to pretend to be something they're not -- they say they're healthy but they're not. Or, that they put customers first when they don't.
Consumers are smart - really smart. And today more than ever they will call B.S.
Between social media and online reviews, you can't fool them for long. Never attempt to fabricate your authenticity. You will get caught.
#2. It starts at your company's roots.
Everything the human body does is manufactured from its DNA. It's the same when it comes to your company. Ensure that the DNA of your business is in line with providing the value your customers seek.
Your DNA is made up of your mission, your employees and their passions, your long term strategic focus, what you do when there are conflicts and problems, and how your employees interact. It is what you and your employees spend day after day focusing on. Is focus on your brand promise or profits and growth?
If the latter, you'll need to make changes to better align the value proposition you communicate to consumers and the DNA at the core of your company.
#3. It manifests in your organization.
Your company's DNA is likely manifesting in a number of ways across your organization - to your gain or detriment. For example, at Simple Mills, our customers care about our ingredients and nutrition. And so too do our employees - they spend a lot of time thinking about this.
Because of that, we have a plethora of processes behind the scenes to constantly support this - effort and research to understand how everything we source is processed, where it comes from, and the nutrition behind each of our ingredients.
Every part of your company will bear the fruit of whatever seeds you've planted. If truly solving the customer's issue isn't at the root, the results will read inauthentic.
#4. It has to be thorough.
Make sure you're not missing any components. Every part of your business has to be aligned with the value you're communicating to the customer.
For us, this means when we cater a team lunch, we bring in nutritious food. When we review opportunities for expansion, we look at them in the context of our broader goal of lifting the standards of what is in the center aisles of the grocery store. If it doesn't help toward that mission, we don't do it - no matter how much profit it might bring. We've forgone many foodservice opportunities for that reason.
Carry mission cohesiveness everywhere you go and in all you do.
#5. You have to tell the truth.
But at the end of the day, authenticity and trust starts with telling the truth. That means not delivering messages that aren't true and being honest about your failures. And this goes for social media, too - don't hide or delete negative feedback.
Consumers appreciate honesty and transparency. Don't try to fool them. We make honesty and transparency a practice both inside our organization and outside our organization. Authenticity starts from within.