“It’s not authentic if everyone loves you.” – Stephen Strong (Alberto Culver) at the Chicago Brand Advocacy Series. That is a message that every marketer needs to hear loud and clear, especially as the focus on social media gets stronger and recommendations carry more purchasing weight than ever before! The term “authenticity” gets used a lot now, but how many brands actually subscribe to being authentic, not just saying they are?
True authenticity in marketing requires brands to change their public filters. It used to be that a whitewashed image was the way to get consumers’ notice and buy-in (literally)…but now, if brands filter out any and all slight imperfections, consumers quickly get wary. If the only product/service reviews you allow the public to hear are about how amazing your product/service is, you quickly lose authenticity points.
In today’s market, REAL trumps PERFECT because real is what creates TRUST ... and trust is what makes WOM recommendations work. Consumers who trust your brand are much more likely to become Brand Advocates, knowing you will consistently deliver on your product and service promises. In fact, 76% of consumers recommended companies they trust to a friend or colleague (source: Edelman).
One key way to gain consumers’ trust is to build authentic relationships with them. Give consumers ongoing chances to interact with you and your brand, so they can see that you always tell the truth. Don’t waste your valuable marketing time making things up because your consumers will sense that you are not telling the truth. Do your products and services have all perfect recommendations, as your brand claims? Maybe – but unlikely. 100% on-time delivery? Maybe – but unlikely.
Of course you don’t need to announce your errors or be proud of performance inconsistencies, but if consumers bring them up publicly, consider NOT filtering those conversations out of the media. Speak directly to any issues consumers have with your brand, and let your problem-solving conversations be public. These authentic conversations are the ones that build ongoing relationships – the ones that create Brand Advocates.
In my opinion, our new marketers’ motto should be “LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation.” In other words, don't waste resources whitewashing your brand. Put your resources instead into giving Advocates the tools to tell their truth about your brand…because that is what consumers trust and what they trust, they will buy. “LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation” = a boost to your ROR (Return on Relationship).
True authenticity is one major thing that can set your brand apart from the rest of today’s highly competitive market. How authentic is your brand??
-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist