Authenticity is the new brand standard. The most authentic brands in the world are also the top brands, period.

When people think of authentic brands, they usually come up with companies like TOMS, Ben & Jerry's, and Lego. What do all of these brands have in common? Social purpose.

That's not surprising considering nearly two-thirds of consumers want businesses to take a stand on current social issues. More than 80 percent of consumers surveyed in a recent study allow a company's social purpose to drive their purchasing decisions when quality and price are about the same.

While it's clear that taking a stand on social issues contributes to your brand's authenticity, you're likely wondering what else you can do to be seen as authentic. According to the Journal of Consumer Psychology, a brand's authenticity is judged by the consumer's perception that a brand is driven by the need to be caring and responsible, its need to be loyal to itself and its customers, and its intention to support consumers "in being true to themselves."

To accomplish this, you'll have to be honest and transparent on several fronts. Here are three:

1. Have good intentions and follow through on them.

The top brands in the world put customers first. To provide customers with an incomparable experience, your business needs to show it has good intentions. Google's actions, for instance, are based on what customers need, from simple answers to their difficult problems to availability when they need extra help. Show that you're motivated by caring about your audience members' pain points and by your responsibility as a company.

To express your good intentions, adopt a social purpose that aligns with your corporate mission and your consumers' values and -- this is important -- that you can meaningfully contribute to. Then, follow through. For instance, when President Trump signed major corporate tax cuts into law last year, Patagonia founder Yves Chouinard called them "irresponsible." The company then followed through on that belief by putting the $10 million in profits it received as a result of the cuts toward organizations fighting climate change. Moves like this one are exactly why Patagonia comes to mind when customers think about authentic brands.

2. Make sure your marketing paints an accurate picture.

Two recently released documentaries about the Fyre Festival's slew of problems highlighted the impact influencers had in attracting a crowd based on an atmosphere that only the influencers themselves experience. Those influencers are now being sued for unfair trade practices, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation.

While it may be tempting to roll out the red carpet for an influencer to ensure he or she has a positive experience with your brand, resist the temptation. According to Michael Innocentin, vice president of e-commerce and digital for AccorHotels, "It's easy to see how loyal customers might be put off when they see posts from influencers who have enjoyed these extravagant experiences. Influencer partnerships designed to attract new customers can inadvertently sour your company's devoted patrons." Instead, your influencer marketing should accurately reflect what every customer can expect. Of course, this requires you to be honest with your influencers about what you really offer to all customers.

3. Hold yourself accountable.

Authenticity is about holding your company accountable. This means being upfront with consumers when something's not going well. For example, Patrick Doyle, Domino's Pizza CEO, acknowledged that the company's product needed major improvements. He and his team dove into the complaints the company received from customers and completely reworked the product, using a series of videos of people taste-testing the product to show their work. Doyle held himself accountable not only to the complaints the company received, but also directly to customers. Be faithful to yourself and your customers by following through on your company's promises.

Product consistency is one way to do that. People still recognize and drink Coca-Cola for two reasons: Its product has stayed the same (which is why New Coke infamously failed), and its logo has been consistent. Companies deliver on their brand promises just half of the time, according to a Gallup survey. If you want customers to remember you, get your employees on board with your brand's social promise and hold yourself accountable for the quality of your products or services. When your employees fall short, don't simply blame them for not adequately upholding your values. Instead, look for the root of the problem, whether it be lack of training, a faulty hiring process, internal software issues, or what have you.

Customers are measuring you based on your company's ability to be authentic. Show customers what you believe in, be transparent about problems in your organization and be true to your promises. Once you do that, you'll become a brand they won't want to forget.

Published on: Feb 18, 2019
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