I was recently approached on LinkedIn, by a young woman who is currently writing the end of year Dissertation for her degree. She asked me for my point of view regarding brand authenticity and I happily shared my opinions on the subject.
While I was very flattered that somebody would find my opinion relevant enough for their dissertation (it feels like I was writing mine yesterday!), I also found her questions to be very pertinent. They made me realise that I have a lot of opinions on the way that Marketing is evolving, and that I should share them to get the conversation going!
As is mentioned throughout my whole website, I am here trying to help entrepreneurs and small business understand the concepts of Marketing. And one of the key things to take into account for an efficient strategy, is how your brand comes across to your audience: i.e., the level of authenticity that is conveyed through your brand. You can read two pieces I had already written on the subject of good branding here and here.
And now I would like to share with you my answers and therefore my opinion, on what has changed and what constitutes authentic marketing in 2018, and hopefully beyond. I hope you find these insights useful for the implementation of your own Marketing strategy. Do not hesitate to leave a comment or reach out to me with any questions. Remember: I offer a 30min free consultation to any new visitors of my website/blog!
- What does brand authenticity mean to you? A brand’s ability to stay true to its core values and transparent with its audience.
- Do you believe today’s consumer is loyal to brands? Ultimately Yes, but I believe it is increasingly hard to get them to become loyal in the first place. I think the battle of Price vs Product quality is becoming more and more intense. Ironically, I’m starting to see a trend where very good quality products and services struggle to get noticed, whereas poorer quality products, which also more often than we think happen to be sold at a more expensive price, seem to be doing quite good in their sales strategies. I wonder if it might be a problem with budget allocation: a poor quality product costs less, and therefore more money is left for aggressive marketing actions. Or perhaps people still believe that the more expensive a product is, the more “high end” it is and therefore they fall easily into the trap, find out the product isn’t what it played out to be, and end up putting every business big or small, in the same pessimistic box. In any case, people easily get disappointed these days, which is why it is harder to build a loyal relationship. As a result, we are starting to witness the rise of smaller, more locally produced and distributed products and services. It’s a very interesting space to watch I think.
- What would you recommend an inauthentic brand do to become authentic? I don’t think there is much more to do than get rid of the elements who are making it into an inauthentic brand. I believe every brand is authentic to start with, and sometimes, somehow, ends up in the wrong hands. The hands of people who want to turn the brands into big money making machines and kill the authenticity over time. If there is a real will to change it back, then changing management is a good start and depending on the level of damage caused to the audience and the consumers, perhaps a full rebranding may be necessary.
- What do you think is the most important factor of a brand according to the consumer? I’d say authenticity with regard to the product that is offered, the price at which it is offered and the way it is being pushed to the audience. A good example I’ve been watching closely lately is the health and wellbeing scene and more specifically, the Yoga scene. Yoga is one of the rare “sectors” left on earth that advocates for generosity, authenticity and understanding for all human beings. But recently, it has come into light that a specific Yoga clothing brand is acting very inauthentically. They have utilised the message carried by the practice of Yoga and turned it into a Marketing machine to sell expensive workout clothes to “gullible” young women who “worship” them. By being expensive, exclusive (barely any depiction of coloured or bigger-sized women) and very aggressive in their Marketing strategy, they act in a deceiving manner towards their core audience (I say “core” and not “whole”audience because I believe a lot of their customers buy their gear without practicing yoga, which is fine but in that case they need to change their messaging). Finally, that brand is at the centre of a big scandal, as it has come out that they are now suing a young Yoga teacher, for reasons that are still quite blurry from a legal standpoint. For many reasons, they are not acting authentically towards their audience, which as mentioned, is mainly made up of yoga practitioners and this may end up costing them big losses. I feel this is a great example of a brand that is putting its credibility at a high risk.
- Why do you believe that brand authenticity has become such a ‘buzz word’ in recent years? Because people are becoming very aware of what they are being sold into. They are becoming more aware of the power of marketing and advertising and they feel manipulated. Which is why they are increasingly searching for real authenticity. They are tired of being lied to.
- Do you believe consumers care about brand authenticity? I believe that when it comes to their own consumption, brand authenticity is increasingly important. It embodies plenty of aspects, such as how ethical they are, how sensitive they are to our health and wellbeing as consumers, their price vs quality ratio, how much they care about our feedback etc… To me, authenticity represents the overall behaviour of a brand, and a brand is the full package that consumers buy into.
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If you are curious about the mentioned Yoga Brand and want to find out more about the behaviours to avoid for your own business’ sake, you can read more here.