How to Create an Authentic Brand Experience
Authenticity is one of those concepts that are easy to talk about but incredibly difficult to achieve in practice. Finding authenticity in your marketing is a prolonged and concerted effort to first say who you intend to be as a company and then to follow through on that plan. Provided you are an expert in your field and an honest operator, there is no reason your marketing should not come across as authentic.
Announce the Values You Espouse
The act of marketing is one giant value judgment. As people scroll through articles, posts, and tweets they constantly measure the core values behind each piece of content against their own. When something matches our values, we are likely to take the call to action for that piece of content. If the values feel askew, we are likely to keep scrolling.
It is important to be authentic when choosing your values. It can be tempting to try and construct a facade of the ideal business, but if the values you espouse don’t match the actual values that dictate your actions you’ll soon find yourself in dutch with your audience. Richard Branson said,
“Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character.”
It is crucial for you to understand which values are most important to your brand. One way to establish your values is to identify experiences where you felt your company really succeeded. What were the values that made that success possible?
The inverse can also work. What are sometimes you feel your company did not live up to its own expectations. What were the values that were violated in that case?
Finally, what are the values you rely on day to day to make sure that things run smoothly in your business and your life? Identifying these values can take time and is an ever-evolving process. It is, however, the first and most important step in achieving authenticity.
Demonstrate Your Expertise
One of the most important side effects of authentic marketing is the establishment of a relationship of trust. When you use your online engagement to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, your audience will come to see you as a thought leader in your field and you will become an influencer to those most interested in what you have to offer.
The secret to becoming an authentic thought leader in your marketing is consistently delivering valuable insights. Giving away valuable advice can sometimes be a difficult exercise for an advisor whose primary product is advice. It feels a little bit like giving away the milk for free. In deciding what level of insight to use in your marketing, it can be tempting to hold back the good stuff. This is generally a mistake. There will always be proprietary information you only share with clients but as a rule, it is good to provide more valuable insight than you might feel comfortable with.
On top of the reputation-enhancing benefits of such content, valuable insights in your marketing material can also have an incredible effect on your SEO. Google has worked hard over the last decade to hone their algorithms to reward not just keyword rich copy, but copy that authentically provides a rich user experience.
The Danger of Inauthenticity
Once you have established yourself as an expert who shares important values with your audience, it is important that you then live up to those standards. If the behavior of your advisory is not consistent with your marketing you will soon feel a backlash.
Ironically enough, marketing as a concept has an image problem. What should be an honest effort to convey a brand’s benefits and values too often comes off as a snow job, some attempt to misrepresent the reality of a company. Modern consumers are incredibly savvy and have become adept at identifying incongruous marketing messages.
If there is even a suspicion of dishonesty in your marketing message the result will be a complete loss of trust and most likely a cessation of any engagement with your brand. In extreme cases, dishonesty will be rewarded with outright animosity in the form of negative online reviews that can haunt your company for years to come.
Authenticity is not a static concept. It can take years to establish and can be destroyed with a single action. By focusing on your brand values and demonstrating your expertise you can continue to establish your authenticity for as long as it remains congruent with your actions.