What do consumers want? Brand authenticity. When do they want it? Now! Welcome to the age of plummeting consumer trust – an era in which genuine honesty and the simple act of being authentic have become the most valuable attributes to possess in the professional arena. With the connectivity and information-sharing abilities of social media at their fingertips, consumers are a more discerning bunch than ever before. Price, convenience and quality will always be important but, these days, a growing number of people want values as much as they want value for money. When it comes to brands and the way they promote themselves, the need to be real is a key driver to sales success.
Integrity rules overall
In an era when global consumers rate integrity above innovation and a stand-out product, brand values matter. And the reason for the shift can be explained by the buying power of the millennial market – consumers who have grown up with the online world as part of their everyday existence. Brands that ignore the increasing buying power of this new generation of buyers will do so at their peril. Put simply, if your brand is not communicating effectively with millennials and recognising them as influencers over both younger and older generations either side of them, you’ll soon flounder in the changing tide of retail habits.
Tell the truth
Spin-doctoring has no place in this new market. In the eternal search for true authenticity, millennials want the backstage pass to see what’s behind the curtain. Keeping it real is critical. For savvy Brand Managers, the challenge is to discover how to do that in an effective message that opens conversations up, rather than simply talks to them. Candid communication is only the tip of the iceberg. That other 9/10ths below the surface? It must be built on a foundation of honesty and integrity and values that are not just special effects masked by smoke and mirrors.
Brand citizenship values equals customer loyalty
Dismissing the millennial generation as superficial, shallow consumers is too simplistic – and ignorant. Developing brand values that stand for something and finding a way to share those values in ways that are real and genuinely meaningful should never be a marketing strategy. Instead, the brand values must be developed and nurtured for their own sake, with smart Brand Managers figuring out ways to showcase them in ways that connect with their audience, rather than grandstanding their achievements for the obvious benefit of more sales. It’s a challenge that requires fresh ways of thinking, rather than a reliance on what used to work. It’s a clear message that millennials are shouting from the rooftops. Those days of talking the talk are dead. To be a relevant, successful brand with integrity, it’s about walking the walk, too.
The ingredients of authenticity
Core values underpin all great brands and some of the characteristics that define them include transparency, consistency, passion, empathy and vision. To be authentic in today’s market, brands must know why they began – and where they’re going. Brand Managers can’t make it happen overnight but it can happen. To create a brand that is resilient, adaptable and authentic, start with respect for relationships and have an eye on the long game. Community should always be at the heart of every decision made, with a commitment to do the right thing at all times – and be honest about inevitable failings when, and if, they do occur. Honesty is always the best policy – as difficult as it might sometimes seem. With that attitude flowing to an approach to customer service, as well as the way HR departments deal with team members, brands are on the right track to building something that lasts.