According to the WorldCom Confidence Index and other global surveys, our world is experiencing a crisis of confidence. A sense of distrust is creating a growing divide, and it’s affecting brand relationships with consumers and business operations alike.
There’s no quick fix, because the battle is taking place on several fronts. Key stakeholders have lost confidence in executive teams who are not adequately addressing the complex issues at the heart of modern business. Employees have grown fearful of the job-replacing potential of advanced technology, just as the C-Suite has committed to a stronger investment in AI. Societal trust in media, government, NGOs, and businesses has decreased year-over-year.
In this increasingly polarized world, many brands are struggling with the right approach to connecting with core audiences and establishing (or re-establishing) themselves as trustworthy.
Here’s the good news: Younger generations have made it clear what they consider a “trustworthy brand.”
Increasingly, Gen Z and Millennial consumers are defining trustworthy businesses and brands as those that are both authentic and reflect their own values. We covered the topic of aligning with values and social issues in the first blog of this series, but what does it mean to be an “authentic” brand?
Well, we’re glad you asked. Here are three ways to put your brand on the road to authenticity.
Define and Live Your Core Brand Values
Has your brand defined, documented, and distributed its core values to employees? When was the last time you revisited those values, updated them based on employee feedback, and asked whether those values are reflected in your company’s operations?
Your company’s core values go well beyond your mission statement, your value proposition, and your employee handbook. Attributes such as inclusivity, honesty, and accountability will help build a consistent and well-defined brand DNA. They are the cornerstones of your brand’s culture and personality – both internally and in your relationships with the outside world.
Putting those core values down on paper and making them known to your workforce is only the first step. Authenticity means living up to those values and ensuring they inspire your workforce and your company’s actions.
It requires true organization-wide collaboration and commitment. Your HR department and employee feedback can ensure that your company’s values come to life in your hiring practices, community involvement, and daily operations. If your company is truly living those values, they will shine through authentically to the outside world.
Find the Right Brand-Media Fits
Authenticity also shines through in the media connection points with your audiences. Your social media strategy should reflect your brand’s values and identity, and you should target the right mix of traditional media for your intended audiences.
In other words, a B2B enterprise computing company probably shouldn’t be advertising their services on TikTok. Likewise, a teen fashion brand probably shouldn’t be pitching The Economist about their new summer lineup.
There may be exceptions – for example, if the B2B brand wants to highlight their fun work culture for recruiting purposes, or if the fashion brand wants to offer an interview with an executive. However, for marketing and communication with your core customers, those aren’t the right brand-media fits. The wrong brand-media fit will seem inauthentic to your audiences.
Today’s media landscape is incredibly varied and specialized. An expert PR agency and media-relations team will ensure your traditional and social media efforts are reaching the right audiences in the right places. The result will be authentic new opportunities for improved brand awareness and growth.
Use Compelling Experiences to Connect With Your Audiences
Media outlets can help your brand’s messaging and value propositions reach the masses, but compelling brand experiences are one of the best ways to connect with your customers. That means giving your audiences a fun, memorable, and thought-provoking way to interact with your brand and its products via experiential marketing.
Experiential marketing comes to life in the form of brand experiences that “show” rather than “tell” people about the benefits of your brand and product. There’s nothing more authentic than that.
It’s an exciting trend that has brought brand experiences outside of trade shows, retail stores, and networking events and into the real world. Brands are creating their own interactive experiences to engage their customer bases more deeply, from “Instagram-friendly” pop-ups to consumer consultation on future product strategy.
Creating your own custom events and experiences lets you own the narrative, own the schedule and location, and own the creative elements of your engagement. More and more brands are choosing to create their own standalone launch and “brand experience” events rather than compete with thousands of other companies at massive trade shows.
If your brand doesn’t have a multi-million-dollar budget, there are still effective ways to make your customers an authentic part of your brand strategy. For example, Airfoil helped one of its clients, Big Fig Mattresses, execute a program that allowed customers to shape the company’s product development, marketing, and brand identity. It’s all about creating authentic connections by engaging directly with current and future customers.
Let’s Make It Real
At Airfoil, we’ve helped dozens of clients define and document their core brand values, develop and execute successful media strategy, and create compelling brand stories that inspire memorable experiential events. Truly being authentic requires extensive cross-functional expertise, and that’s what we bring to the table as a strategic partner. Let’s talk about how we can help your brand create authentic connections with the world outside its walls.