Authenticity plays a crucial role in brand strategy.
The word authenticity has been around forever when talking about brands. More than ever, consumers demand that companies are authentic about what they stand for, their values, and commitments. Edelman's Trust Barometer 2020 found that 64% of buyers are belief-driven, and 90% of customers said that authenticity is essential to them when looking for brands to support. If that is not enough to convince you that an authentic brand is critical, let's look at brands that have increased their profits since embracing being authentic.
#Aeriereal, a campaign with a promise to use real women and not photoshop their models, was launched in 2014. The campaign supports body positivity and inclusivity. Models come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, and beauty marks, and tattoos. Aerie was also the first national retailer to sponsor the National Eating Disorder Association.
So how has all of this affected Aerie's sales? While Victoria Secret closed over 250 stores in 2020, Aerie had its "28th consecutive quarter of double digits sales growth". So while some intimate apparel brands struggle, Aerie is still going to the bank.
On the 30th anniversary of Nike's tagline "Just Do It" slogan, Colin Kapernick, the NFL player whose career ended due to the controversy surrounding him kneeling during the National Anthem, posted a tweet that said, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. #JustDoIt".
Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, put it best "It doesn't matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it. And as long as you have that attitude, you can't be afraid of offending people. You can't try and go down the middle of the road. You have to take a stand on something." Nike also spoke on the death of George Floyd, posting "For once, Don't Do It" with the hashtag #UntilWeAllWin
Nikes customers connected with the brand's authenticity and values as they got "$163 million in earned media, a $6 billion brand value increase, and a 31% boost in sales."
Disney (The Happiest Place on Earth):
Disney has been ranked as one of the "highest-ranking brands globally based on consumer perception of authenticity." The company considers all aspects of their guests' experience, from trash cans every 30 feet to pumping scents throughout the park.
Disney also focuses on its social responsibility initiatives and partners with nonprofits such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation. All of this combined creates life-long customers for The Walt Disney Company.
How to create an authentic brand:
Your CEO is the storyteller of your company. Even if you have your values and a strong marketing strategy, your customers will see if your CEO doesn't believe in the core values. So don’t create core values just to create them. Remember, be genuine.
Include your employees:
Not sure what your core values should be? Ask your employees. Once you determine what's vital to your company and employees, hire people who reflect those core values. Patagonia, for example, actively supports its employees in advocating for the environment.
Consistency is key:
Having core values and actively showing them are two completely different things. For example, if your core values are committed to saving the earth, your marketing efforts, communication, packaging, and actions must also align with that core value.