In a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group that surveyed 2,500 American consumers found that being authentic was one of the main qualities they said would attract them to a brand. But exactly does it mean for a brand to be authentic? Is being perceived as authentic a goal worth pursuing? And what specific steps can companies take to be more authentic?
The Authentic Brand Index, the world’s first study into understanding and measuring the authentic equity of brands, sought to answer these questions. According to them, “Authenticity helps fuel success in today’s over-traded markets as consumers search for greater meaning and sincerity from the brands they choose – fuelled by a desire to connect with things that feel safe, certain and unambiguous. At its heart, authenticity is about practising what you preach; being totally clear about who you are and what you do best. When a brand’s rhetoric gets out of sync with customers’ actual experiences, the brand’s integrity and future persuasiveness suffers.”
To help increase understanding of what makes a brand authentic, the Authentic Brand Index employed qualitative exploration and quantitative data modelling to identify seven key drivers of brand authenticity:
- Originality, or the extent to which your brand has brought something new and different to the market. If nobody can even remember a brand because there is nothing about it that makes it unique, it will be hard for that brand to achieve an image of authenticity. Thus, brands that are able to differentiate and bring something new to the market are much more likely to be remembered, and to be perceived as authentic.
- Personal utility, or the degree to which the brand delivers real utility to users that they feel they can’t live without. When a brand provides a high level of personal utility to users, those users will be more likely to engage with that brand. Companies should clearly convey exactly what utility will be provided to users.
- Declared beliefs, or the extent to which the brand stands for more than just making money. While consumers are willing to spend money on brands that they like, they also do not like to feel like they are just throwing money at a cold, moneymaking machine. People like to be able to identify a human element in companies, and to feel as though the company has values and beliefs beyond simply making a profit.
- Sincerity, or the extent to which the brand tries to not let people down. A big part of brand sincerity is actually taking the time to engage with customers and hear out their concerns- companies that do this will be more valued by customers than companies that do not make the effort. Furthermore, companies that are able to own up to shortcomings and be forthright about their mistakes and continued commitment to delivering customer satisfaction, will be perceived as more sincere.
- Familiarity, or the extent to which the brand is well known by everyone. If the brand name is easily recognizable, people will be more likely to trust it. In fact, Nielsen found that 60% percent of global consumers with Internet access prefer to buy new products from a familiar brand, rather than a brand that they do not recognize.
- Momentum, or the extent to which a brand has the aura of becoming more popular. A brand that is growing is important, because consumers often jump on bandwagons. Brand momentum encapsulates not just what a brand is and represents now, but what it could become. People are more likely to get on board with a brand that seems positioned to grow, rather than a brand that feels like it is sinking.
- Heritage, or the extent to which a brand has a relevant and engaging story. People form connections with brands much in the same way that they do with other people. For this, brands that have a compelling story are more likely to draw people in, and more likely to be seen as authentic.
So, how does all of this connect to improved business performance? Well, as the Authentic Brand Index states, “Performance on ‘Core Authenticity’ drives business performance. The stronger a brand’s Core Authenticity, the more likely people are to become advocates for the brand, and the greater the share a brand will have of high value customers in its market.”
This means that brand authenticity ties in heavily to brand advocacy. Companies that are hoping to execute a social media advocacy strategy, then, should pay extra attention to the level of authenticity that is associated with their brand, and work to increase it.