Brands are everywhere. From the minute we wake up in the morning to the minute we go to sleep at night, we are exposed to them—among the coffee we drink, cereal we eat and toothpaste and toothbrush we use right through to the clothes we wear, car we drive, laptop we use and shows we watch on our television—we must encounter hundreds to thousands of brands daily.
But of the very many brands we see, we don’t buy into ALL of them. There’s more awareness around and demand for some than others, right? So why is that? And why is it important we discuss it?
Well, one of the BIGGEST deciding factors for people when choosing to buy into a brand (or not) is the brand’s authenticity. See—authenticity is a driver of trust, and we don’t buy from brands that aren’t trustworthy. As many as 80% of Baby Boomers said that how authentic a brand is or isn’t would make or break their buying decision, and 85% of Generation X said the same thing. A massive 90% of Millennials said that they could be turned off by a brand that came across inauthentically… but although these stats are staggering, I can’t really say I’m surprised, can you?
Either way, the evidence is clear. If you want to build a profitable business that people buy into (and therefore, a sustainable business)—authenticity is a must.
But… what exactly IS brand authenticity, and how can you cultivate it so that you always have a consistent stream of clients and cash?
That’s EXACTLY what I’ll be diving into in this blog post. I’ll be sharing 4 things you need to establish so that leads will trust you enough to buy from you from the first time, and your clients will trust you enough to purchase your products/services over and over again (as well as recommend them to others!).
1. What is brand authenticity?
It’s hard to know how to ‘measure’ this element of advertising and promotion… but given how essential it is to a business owner’s client roster and bank balance, it’s thankfully received some attention from Felicitas Morhart, professor of marketing at HEC Lausanne.
In her (and her colleagues’) research paper entitled “Brand authenticity: An integrative framework and measurement scale,” they argued that there are a few different dimensions to brand authenticity, including:
- Continuity (which describes the degree to which a brand remains faithful to itself and is able to ‘transcend trends’)
- Credibility (which is about how open, honest and transparent a brand is and is able to deliver on what it promises)
- Integrity (which refers to how moral and ethical a brand is and adheres to its values)
In this blog post, I’m going to be unpacking each of these concepts as well as giving you some tangible tips and tools so you can practice more authenticity in your business (and be seen as more trustworthy) too.
One of the gaps these researchers missed that needs to be filled, though, is VULNERABILITY, I think. As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is a path back to each other, but we’re so afraid to get on it”. Vulnerability, though sometimes scary, is absolutely necessary for connection and if you aren’t connecting with your leads you won’t convert them to paying clients, trust me. I saw a dramatic increase when I started sharing more deeply and meaningfully with my audience, as I did in this post here.
Okay, so let’s jump in.
As with most things in business, consistency is key, and it’s no different when it comes to your brand. Brand continuity refers to you managing to maintain a consistent image and experience throughout all of your marketing and communications. It covers everything from your visual branding and the way your brand looks (your logo, color palette, and fonts), to your verbal branding and the way it sounds (the kind of language you use to speak to your clients)… and spans all elements of your customer experience, from your customer support and services, to the user experience on your website. No matter what part of your business a customer is interacting with, their experience should be consistent across platforms and situations.
Brand continuity is essential for an authentic business because it helps you reinforce your message and what you represent. It helps your company establish its uniqueness and stand out from the crowd by honing in on what makes it special, not to mention builds the all-important know, like, and trust factor. Think about your own experiences—I’ll bet there have been plenty of times where you have been attracted to a brand because your first impression of it resonated with you in some way. But the only way you’re going to stay interested in the company and what it has to say is if it continues to uphold that impression.
If you then become a customer of that particular brand, whether or not you decide to buy from them again depends on whether your first experience lived up to your expectation or not. It all comes down to the fact that seeing the same message repeatedly, alongside receiving the same level of experience enhances reliability and allows customers to trust in you and feel safe to purchase from you.
As well as being consistent, it’s also super important to remain authentic that a brand is credible. Credibility is defined as “the quality of being trusted and believed in”, therefore, from a brand perspective, it refers to whether or not your potential customers trust that you will do what you say you will, and believe in your ability to do so. This is HUGE… because no one is going to invest their hard-earned cash into something or someone they don’t believe in—so without credibility, not only do you not have an authentic business, but you don’t really have a business at all!
Customers are savvier now than ever before, and with so many options out there, they are empowered to spend their money on the things they believe will get them a return on their investment (financial or otherwise). With social media, they also have space to use their voices and shout out when they are either impressed by or disappointed in, a brand. Therefore, not only is it important that each of your customers has a similar experience, but it’s also crucial that their experience is extremely positive (I give tops and tools to help you elevate your client experience in this post right here). The more you can prove that you are able to deliver on what it is you’re selling, the more and more people will choose to buy it.
So the first step towards being credible is delivery, but the second is proof. Ask your current clients or past customers for testimonials explaining what they were able to achieve by working with you. Get them to speak in terms of the transformation you provided (i.e where they were before vs. where they are now), ask them whether they would recommend you, and share their answers for new, potential clients to see. It’s one thing hearing about how credible your brand is from you, but the only way for your customers to really believe it is by hearing it from impartial, external voices. That said, there’s absolutely no harm in sharing your credentials yourself, either, but again think in terms of proof: qualifications, facts, and figures.
In order to ‘come across’ as a credible brand—you have to truly be a credible brand, and that means staying in integrity with what you set out to do. This is about much more than perception. It’s about the promise you make to your clients. Evidence of your credibility is something that you will earn over time, but your integrity is something that must be evident from the get-go in order for you to get there. This means that in everything that you do, you are referring back to your ‘why’, tapping into your vision and mission for your business and making sure that your actions are in alignment with them—because if they are not, people will pick up on it, and being out of integrity can make or break your brand.
Broadly speaking, integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. With that in mind, companies that display brand integrity are truthful, trustworthy, and unwavering when it comes to sticking with their values. ‘Sticking with’ is imperative here because it’s not enough to just come up with brand values and share them on your website, you have to be continuously evidencing that those values make up the ethos of your brand.
There will undoubtedly be times in business when you run into difficult or unforeseen situations, occasions when you make mistakes, or instances when something going on in the wider world is of relevance for you to comment on. At times like these, standing by your values will allow for your integrity to shine through, and will only make your customers (or potential customers) believe in you more.
And finally, it’s so important that when interacting with your clients, you are doing so in a way that encourages deep connection (particularly if you are a personal brand or the face of your brand), and this requires you to be vulnerable. With social media and the internet, we’ve been given such an amazing opportunity to be able to connect with so many people at once, and when you have an important message to share, it’s vital that you do it in a way that will really speak to people. Being open and vulnerable can be difficult as it triggers fears around worrying about what people will think, but trust me—the rewards far outweigh the risks. The most beautiful thing about this is that all it requires is for you to be yourself.
Truthfully, your customers want to know that you are human—and this is especially true if you are going to be coaching them. They want to see themselves reflected back in you, whether that be because you used to be where they are, or they want to be where you are… so open up! Share your origin story, tap into the pain points you used to experience (and they likely still are), tell them your biggest fears and your deepest desires. The more they feel like they know you, the more they will want to work with you, and the more likely they are to feel safe to invest in you. The more they see themselves in you, the more they will feel understood, and the more they will trust you to offer a solution to their problems. And at the end of the day, that’s all business is—solutions to problems.