In an age where digital drives everything, and consumer cynicism and antipathy is growing, authenticity resonates. Consumers are placing increasing value on honesty, integrity and transparency, globally.

People believe in honest brands. The authenticity checklist is the ability to be genuine, original, unique, expert, visionary, passionate, honest, and have veracity. Authenticity also means being culturally relevant to the target consumer.

Qualitative research is showing that authenticity is one of the ways consumers assign value and navigate choice. It strengthens emotional relationships with brands, the appreciation of them, and the level to which consumers are prepared to become advocates.

Brand behaviours that are most valued are:

  • Communicating honestly about products and services
  • Communicating honestly about environmental impact and sustainability
  • Delivering on brand promise
  • Acting with integrity with customers, employees, partners and suppliers, at all times
  • Standing for more that profit.

Across the globe consumer priority is related to:

  • Food and product safety and integrity
  • Environmental protection
  • Protecting personal data
  • Being a good corporate citizen (ie. good business practices, safe and fair working conditions, paying taxes, legislative requirements, social responsibility, and so on).

In the China market the demand for brand authenticity is at the highest (Cohn & Wolfe research, 2014). Chinese consumers:

  • Are informed – 89% follow the news closely
  • Demand integrity in brands – 88% think it is important
  • Want brands to ‘stand for more than making money’ – 80% think it is important
  • Hot button items are food quality, product safety, environment and data protection
  • Place far more value on product innovation and utility than big western markets
  • Want ethical brands, as regards to corporate taxation, working conditions, and animal welfare.

In developing your own authentic brand you must consider how an authentic brand strategy will engage with your target market. To develop this you need to embrace the authenticity values of your brand, and start a new conversation with your consumers. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can more authentic behaviour increase loyalty to our brand?
  • How can we use authenticity to reach out to new audiences?
  • How will authenticity help us in fast-growth markets or revive our business in slow-growth ones?
  • What are the risks and opportunities of a full-blown authentic brand strategy and taking it to the limit?
  • How can more authenticity help us compete in our category/sector?
  • How can we move from on-message to open questions with our consumers?
  • How can we start using values and words that will fix in people’s minds?
  • How can we create our own authentic brand narrative?

Whilst deviation from your core narrative is possible, it is however crucial that a consistent thread ties any modern iteration to the original message. Authenticity is the new normal and consistent application is critical to your brand strategy in all markets, and with all products and services.

Jan Bierman

Author Jan Bierman

Jan is our business strategist, with over 20 years consulting in the commercial and public sectors. She specialises in guiding individuals and organisations on the critical success factors that drive innovation adoption, from ideation through to implementation.

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