Don’t sell a Snickers and call it a Mars bar.
Honesty is important in any relationship, and the relationship you have with your customers is no different to the relationship you have with your friends and colleagues. If your friend asked you for a Mars bar, they wouldn’t expect you to give them a Snickers. And if you did give them a Snickers, they’d be disappointed – they wanted a Mars bar! But if you gave them a Snickers and told them it was a Mars bar, that would be even worse. The two bars are similar, but they aren’t the same. When your customers expect something from you, that’s what they should get – with no unexpected nuts.
If the services you offer were chocolate bars, a correct list of ingredients would only be the first step in ensuring your authenticity.
Brand authenticity means creating a brand that is transparent about the qualities and values it upholds, as well as the services it provides. Your customers should be as clear as you are on the services you offer, the values you uphold and the relationship they can expect to have with you moving forward.
In 2020, it is impossible just to ‘tell’ customers what you can do for them, and expect them to believe you. You have to show them.
How do I create an authentic brand?
It’s almost impossible to imagine that a brand would intentionally set out to be inauthentic or unreliable, but going over these four points may help you to spot any discrepancies in your brand’s image or values:
1. Make sure you are able to provide the services you are offering.
Check your website, social media pages, leaflets, posters and banners. Are any services listed that you don’t currently provide? Have you made reference to something that you used to offer but have since removed? Ensure that wherever you have control of your advertising, your adverts reflect the genuine services you provide.
2. Revisit your values and make sure you live up to them.
If one of your core values is that the customer is always right, do you always respond to customers in a way that makes them feel as though their opinion is valued and listened to? When you send emails or reply to tweets, are you supporting the idea that the customer is right?
3. Take a look at all of your platforms and make sure they are consistent.
Is it clear that your social media pages and website belong to the same company? Does the writing on your pop up banner sound as though it was written by the same person who responds to customer emails? Honesty should automatically mean consistency, because the same brand is being promoted across all of your platforms.
4. Make sure your customer’s view of your brand is the same as your own.
Look at what customers have said about you in the past and the feedback they have provided. Have they noted the attributes you associated most with your brand? Or have they pointed out an area you excel in that you aren’t aware of? Listen to your customers and make sure you are on the same page.
In 2020, customers can look at all aspects of your brand without being limited to the content you have created. User created content is hugely popular for products because customers feel as though they are seeing a ‘genuine’ review. The same can be said for services. When a customer has said something good about the services you offer, make sure you share it with your audiences, and respond appropriately. As well as providing potential new customers with real feedback, 51% of people are more likely to continue to use a brand that shares their review in it’s own marketing.1
We’ve looked at what brand authenticity is, and how to check that your brand is authentic, but it’s just as essential to understand why brand authenticity is so important to your customers.
Why is brand authenticity important?
Honesty encourages trust. When customers trust your brand, they are more likely to use the services you offer because they know what to expect. In fact, as we looked at in a previous blog, ‘Build your brand to sell your services’, once your brand is well established, your customers are far more likely to buy the services you offer.
Brand authenticity suggests a longevity that customers are looking for. If your brand continuously changes direction and alters the services it provides, your customers will never know what to expect or where they stand.
Being consistent doesn’t mean being stagnant. You can continue to be creative and innovative, and still maintain a consistent and authentic brand, simply by following the same core values you set out to achieve. If in doubt, go back over the four points listed above.
By ensuring you have a brand that is honest, has integrity, provides value and is consistent across all platforms, you are creating a brand that customers can trust, and will turn to again and again.