Every year, companies spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in an effort to appear authentic -- from choosing campaign colors that are psychologically proven to elicit feelings of trust, to using words like “honest” in slogans.
However, the irony is that many of these companies ultimately come under fire from consumers over product inefficacy or false claims, which can undermine marketing efforts in a split second.
Below are several simple tips for building a long-lasting brand your customers can really trust.
1. Practice what you preach. Many companies mislead consumers in one way or another to sell their product; it’s just business to them. But customers are smart, and can quickly suss out the difference. That’s why brand authenticity should be more than a buzzword, it should be a reminder to stay committed to respecting your customers.
For example, if you say you’re a company that cares about the environment, you should actually be using eco-friendly packaging materials.
2. Transparency is key. As a company scales, your product and service will naturally need to evolve as well. Companies shy away from communicating these changes out of fear that their customer base will react poorly, but there is so much to be gained from open communication.
Tell your customers when you’re growing, share what will change, and listen to their feedback so you can continue to grow alongside them.
3. Build a company with values that match your own. When you do so, you don’t need to rely on sugar-coated marketing campaigns. Instead, your authentic relationships with customers will speak for themselves -- and your customers will become more powerful brand advocates than any advertisement.
This integration between business and personal values should feel organic and flow naturally through every aspect of the company in order to trickle down to the customer level.
For example, if creating a collaborative work environment is one of your core values as an entrepreneur, consider highlighting your employees on social media, giving consumers an authentic, behind-the-scenes peek at your business. This is a genuine way for customers to relate to the business on a deeper level, fostering authentic brand loyalty.
4. Social media is your friend. Content creation should really be seen as an opportunity to start a new conversation and communicate with your community on a 1:1 level. An authentic brand will respond to every DM, every comment, and participate in external conversations about your industry. Ideally, social media interactions with an authentic brand will just feel like communicating with a friend.
Not only does social media provide a platform for brands to interact directly and build personal connections with customers, it has also become essential for strategic communications. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow a business to freely address both the good and the bad in any news cycle or industry. How an organization addresses the latter is often the most important part of authentically maintaining a public brand.
5. Always be open to feedback. My co-founder Jonathan and I started our company because of a genuine desire to make dogs healthier. But without feedback from our team and customers along the way, we would likely still be cooking out of our first test kitchen.
Ultimately, without a customer base or team that feels respected, heard, and valued, even the most well-planned branding and marketing initiatives can crumble.
Building an authentic brand isn’t difficult -- and it doesn’t have to cost millions -- if you’re actually being authentic. When entrepreneurs and their teams genuinely care about the problems they’re working to solve and the people they’re aiming to help, authenticity comes naturally.