Why authenticity in marketing is important

Why authenticity in marketing is important


Published: 02 Feb 2024

Consumers want to know the business they’re dealing with is real. Now more than ever, businesses need to take steps to show customers that they are authentic, differentiating themselves from close competitors and AI-fakery.

Authentic was Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2023. It can mean “not false or imitation” or “true to one’s own personality spirit or character.”
Businesses have been striving for authenticity since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, seeking to differentiate themselves from the spectrum of mass-produced options on the market. This holds true now more than ever as customers seek authentic representations of brands and experiences with those brands. That means brands need to be transparent, accountable and aligned with their stated mission.
In a year that saw generative AI rise to prominence and social media companies implement stronger verification policies it’s no wonder authenticity is top-of-mind for digital marketers in the IT industry and beyond.

Why authenticity is important
Authenticity is essential to trust. Customers buy from brands they connect with. Connecting with a brand lets customers build trust, which increases the likelihood that they’ll buy from that brand.
Consumers have more choices than ever. If a brand doesn’t speak to them, if they don’t trust the brand, they can find an alternative. Most professionals looking for information about new technologies and innovations relied on online research over other sources such as social media, national and local media, or friends and family, according to the global report “2024 Edelman Trust Barometer.”
Authentic engagement shows consumers that a brand values their input and respects them. This creates loyal customers that will advocate for a brand in comparison to the competition.

How to be authentic in business and marketing
Here are some ways a company can exhibit authenticity in both its messaging and operations:

Tell a story. A brand’s background story tells customers about ‘its values and the why behind them. It shows customers what’s remained consistent throughout the evolution of the brand — from its founding to its current state. It shows integrity and gives customers an idea of what they can continue to expect from a brand that has remained consistent throughout its history.
Be transparent. Admitting shortcomings, errors and mistakes is part of being authentic. No brand is perfect, and companies will invariably deviate from their stated values or missions from time to time. When they do, it’s important to acknowledge and disclose it. Customers don’t expect perfection and will value honesty even when it highlights a company’s fault. When things are going well, show gratitude toward the customer base. In general, transparency also refers to being honest about a company’s practices and ways of working.
Be consistent. Consistency is important for creating a sense of authenticity in a brand’s customer base. When a brand is consistent in its customer engagement, customers perceive the brand as staying true to its identity, which builds trust and credibility.
Acknowledge multiple objectives. Companies are multifaceted and have a multitude of different goals to achieve. Companies juggle many goals — ensuring shareholder wealth, employee development, environmental contributions, corporate social responsibility, employee training and development and community engagement, to name a few. Businesses should find a way to encompass these multiple goals in their stated values and mission statement. As priorities shift, a company should reflect that in its corporate statement and marketing. The company’s messaging and identity should encompass its varied — and sometimes conflicting priorities — honestly and without making the company seem hypocritical.
Have a purpose. When a brand provides a product or service to improve the world in some way or solve a big-picture problem, it creates a sense of authenticity that can increase customer loyalty. Gen Z consumers are more likely to remain loyal to a brand that works toward social change.
Align employees to core values. Employees — particularly middle managers — need to be aligned with a company’s values. Their roles should be more than administrative. They should empower frontline workers to embody the company’s values in their jobs and represent those values authentically when engaging customers.
Embrace user-generated content. Consumers seek user-generated content to get an unmediated perspective on a product, brand or service. A user testimonial or blog is more authentic than brand-generated content. User-generated content also fosters a community centered on the brand and illustrates the effect a brand has on that community. Companies should amplify user voices and facilitate conversations between them. Most professionals also trust peers over company technical experts, CEOs and journalists, according to the previously mentioned Edelman report.
Deliver quality. Customers trust a company more when they advertise a product or service and then deliver on its promise. When a company repeatedly delivers quality consistent with its messaging, it contributes to a sense of authenticity among the customer base.
Differentiate. An authentic brand identity helps differentiate the brand from its competitors. Customers recognize the brand as the best at what they do. What makes a brand unique can also be what makes the brand authentic.

Benefits of authenticity in business and marketing
Some of the benefits of authenticity in marketing and business operations include the following:

Genuine connections. Authentic brands foster genuine connections with their customer base. There is an honest connection between the customer and the brand based on shared values.
Increased brand equity and reliability. Authenticity increases a brand’s equity — the social value of the brand name in comparison to a generic equivalent; and reliability — the perception of the brand’s ability to deliver on its promises. A brand is reliable when a customer can blindly trust its products or services.
Improved SEO performance. Authentic brands frequently experience improved SEO performance. This is because they create — and curate — high-quality content that the target audience cares about and actively searches for.
Increased customer retention. When customers trust a brand, they are more likely to stick with that brand, increasing customer loyalty.
Increased brand awareness. Loyal customers are more likely to be brand advocates. This will widen the brand’s audience and conversion rate. Authentic messaging and user-generated content can also help create a community around the brand.
More conversions and sales. A loyal customer base and customer advocates create both repeated and new sales, in the form of both new and returning customers.

Examples of authenticity in business and marketing
This sampling of brands has authentic marketing strategies on social media and beyond:

Adobe. Adobe partners with influencers to make how-to content about Adobe programs. Influencers generally have experience using the products and have creative freedom in content creation, providing authentic, user-generated content.
Amazon. Despite controversy around the treatment of its workers, Amazon has laid the groundwork for authenticity by following through on its promises and customer service. Its commitment to service and customer-centricity have contributed to a perception of authenticity surrounding the brand, despite its shortcomings.
Grammarly. The software company Grammarly posts behind-the-scenes videos of staff in its “meet the team” social campaign. Videos such as these humanize a brand and build trust with the audience by showing a sneak peek of the work that goes into making a product or providing a service.
Kodak. The camera brand Kodak encourages users to post pictures taken by Kodak products on Instagram with the hashtag #MadeWithKodak. Kodak then reposts the photos. The photos serve as a visual endorsement of Kodak’s products and create a conversation around the brand that other users can trust.
L.L.Bean. The outdoor apparel brand took a pause from social media to go outside for Mental Health Awareness Month — to embody its environmental values and donate to mental health causes. Employees and customers logged outside hours on the fitness tracking app Strava as well. This campaign showed L.L.Bean’s commitment to its core values and built community with its customer base.
Microsoft. Microsoft maintains a TikTok account that it uses to lean into the creator economy and post humorous or relatable content — such as a video that teaches viewers how to delete columns in Excel. Despite being one of the largest companies in the world, Microsoft uses its short-form video content to cultivate an authentic, personal feel in its marketing. Microsoft also replies to users and joins in on conversations surrounding the brand.
OpenAI. Despite questions about the authenticity of AI in general, OpenAI stays committed to a set of core values and goals in its public messaging. It also ships products — ChatGPT — that support its commitment to providing useful tools.

Editor’s note: This list is based on web research and presented in alphabetical order.
Ben Lutkevich is a writer for WhatIs, where he writes definitions and features.

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