Recently, our Art Director Megan’s hair caught on fire while she was blowing out her birthday candles. The flame was out within a second and she was fine (thank goodness!), but rather than the picture-perfect birthday Instagram we thought we would get, our feed that day told the true story.
Authenticity was a hot topic at Verdin that day (burning hot, in fact!). More and more, brands are recognizing the importance of “realness” at the core of communications. An October 2014 study by Cohn and Wolfe determined that the number one quality that people demand of big brands is “communicating honestly about products and services.” The extensive Champion Brand study from APCO Worldwide and Darden describes authenticity as second of four factors of a champion brand, and a necessary step on the road to consumer advocacy.
But questions arise. How much authenticity is too much? What’s the balance between being polished and professional and being authentic? And if the balance itself is strategically crafted, how authentic is the authenticity anyway?
Authenticity and Millennials
Millennials are a unique audience. They want to connect with the real people that make up a brand. But they also want brands that make a difference beyond just making dollars. And they’re pretty savvy about determining when these two concepts don’t quite overlap.
Part of being authentic is caring about the community. Regardless of how large that community is, it’s important. That’s where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) comes in.
Corporate social responsibility has become essential to conducting a successful business. Yet according to DeSantis Breindel, when a company’s charitable activities feel disconnected from the business, they come across as an extension of the corporate brand – essentially a brand of their own. It doesn’t feel real.
So what’s the solution? Of course, we believe that each brand needs to learn how to express authenticity, well, authentically. But we’ve also got a few ideas:
Make it real for your employees. Passion for your brand and a “doing good” mentality needs to be embedded at the core of your business, so that it is promoted not just through created content, but authentically through the words and actions of the employees themselves.
Admit to mistakes. Authenticity doesn’t only work when a brand and its purposes are flawless or completely altruistic. Issues arise and mistakes occur because people aren’t perfect. But when it’s about being real, the way a brand and the people in it respond to negative situations is what speaks volumes.
Share the heart behind the business. Help consumers build a connection that comes through knowing and understanding you. What inspires you? Why do you do what you do? The “why” can be just as important as the “what”. Just ask Forbes.
Millennials want to see an organization as a collection of individuals who care about their work, care about the world, and care about being real while doing so. How do you build authenticity into your brand? We’d love to hear your ideas!