Authenticity— it can’t be bought, it’s difficult to define, and it can be hard to measure. And yet it is essential to bolstering strength within a brand. Authenticity is a perception put together by your audience, an attribute that’s cultivated over time. The great news is, you don’t need the budget of Disney or Apple to be considered authentic. The keys to being a truly authentic brand are all rooted in demonstrating the values that make your organization uniquely “you.” And the more authenticity your brand expresses, the stronger your brand will become to your audience.
A 2017 report by Cohn & Wolfe revealed that globally, 91% of people were willing to support authentic brands by making a purchase, investment, or endorsement.
Truly authentic brands build trust with their audience over time by consistently delivering on the values that matter most to their followers. Whether you’re a small nonprofit or a mega corporation, becoming an authentic brand is entirely within reach.
Below are the five qualities of truly authentic brands. Together, these qualities combine to create undeniable brand authenticity. If you implement all five of these components, you’ll become a brand that people trust, prefer, and are proud to support.
1. Know your mission.
This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many organizations do not have a clear and compelling mission, nor do they know how to communicate their purpose with their audience. Understanding your “why” is key to building a strong, compelling brand that inspires and motivates.
The mission of the American Red Cross is to “help those affected by disasters.” They have a whole myriad of services and product offerings, but they all ladder up to this core mission: responding to emergencies. This core mission is what they’re known for, and therefore everything they do (blood drives, training, certifications, etc.) feels important, justified, and simply makes sense, because it is all linked to their core mission.
If your organization has a clear mission, it brings the “how’s” and “what’s” of your organization into alignment, providing a clear message to share with the world.
2. Listen to your tribe.
How you treat your audience is way more impactful than the problems you solve. Take the time to invest in getting to know your people, and view them as a pivotal part of your success. Instead of talking at them or pushing your agenda, demonstrate how your organization can help make their lives better and benefit them.
People Hope is an incredible organization that is rooted in encouraging a community of people with chronic illness. They invest a great amount of time asking questions and engaging with their audience—and it shows. They have a fierce following of people who are actively engaged, and they are able to quickly and successfully deliver products and services that speak directly to their tribe of supporters.
You don’t need to tell the world how great you are. Instead, put more effort into listening to your audience and showing them how you can help them achieve greatness.
3. Show your personality.
No matter how technologically advanced society becomes, people do business with other people, not robots. Communicating in a human way that feels personal is essential to cultivating authenticity. Show that your organization is dedicated to the local community, as well as serving worldwide. Speak the language, both literally and culturally, of your communities, and demonstrate that you’re an organization made up of real people with human empathy and compassion.
The Giving Keys employs Los Angeles residents who are transitioning out of homelessness to create their beautiful jewelry. They communicate with confidence and drive, which in turn inspires people who embody those values to identify with their organization. And when a brand relates to someone on a human level, it creates a deep bond with the audience.
4. Be reliable.
The best way to demonstrate authenticity is to consistently deliver great quality. Reliability allows people to trust your organization and eliminates the fear that you are unpredictable or inconsistent.
Toms Shoes’ mission is to “improve lives through business,” and they deliver on that promise by providing ethically sourced solutions to problems around the world. They communicate clearly and consistently, so people understand who they are and why their efforts matter. They follow up on that promise by being transparent about their impact around the world, which in turn intensifies the trust felt towards the organization.
5. Share real stories.
People are captivated by stories—especially stories of transformation. Sharing real stories of how your organization is changing lives underlines all the other qualities of authenticity. It also strengthens the position of your organization as a trusted guide.
UNICEF does a great job sharing stories of lives impacted by their efforts and tying those insights back to their core mission and purpose. Using real photos and videos in social media posts, they get to the heart of the story quickly and focus on why the stories matter more than how they helped. Weaving real stories of transformation into your marketing efforts is a great way to build authenticity.
Know your mission, listen to your tribe, show your personality, be reliable, and share real stories. These are the five qualities that encourage people to perceive you as an authentic brand. Increased support is just a by-product of building authenticity, but by building an authentic brand you will cultivate trust and save millions of dollars in marketing.