The importance of brand authenticity came to the forefront more than ten years ago when demographers started to raise awareness of the buying power of Millennials. With the failure of banks in 2008, and many corporate scandals making the headlines, it’s not surprising Millennials were looking for brands that were authentic and approachable. The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines authenticity as “being true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character and sincere and with no pretensions.” These are all qualities we would like brands to offer: no surprises, no hype or over-promising and down to earth messaging we can relate to. Ninety percent of Millennials indicate authenticity is important to them when deciding which brands they support, so no wonder it’s become a buzzword across every category.
In previous decades, advertising and marketing focused on hype and over-promises. It’s natural that the new generation would want brand marketing to be based on honest facts and not hyperbole. Today, with the confusion about fake news and the apparent tolerance for blatant dishonesty in government leaders, the importance for being authentic is even more critical. With this increased need for brands to remain authentic, we have identified five important factors brands should consider:
1. Know your roots
Brands should celebrate their history and the foundation of their existence. Storytelling is a great way to share a brand’s origins and what lay the foundation for success. Millennials are looking for supporting information about brands that reflects their self-image, and as such, stories about entrepreneurship, innovation and future-thinking are of interest to them.
2. Speak with a true voice
To be truly authentic, brands need to have a clear and easy to understand purpose. This purpose needs to be shared in terms and language Millennials can understand and relate to, and it cannot be marketing speak. Humour and humility are key nuances brands should consider when reinforcing their authenticity.
3. Embrace diversity
With population growth being driven by immigration and the increasing rate of inter-racial marriage, authentic brands embrace everyone and are inclusive in their approach, tone and communication. Brands must reflect the needs of different groups such as the LGBTQ community or religious groups in order to reflect how Millennials see themselves, many having grown up with classmates from families of every possible configuration.
4. Realistic brand perception
The opposite of authenticity is hyping a brand offering. It’s important for brands to communicate the honest benefits of their products, as most Millennials despise devious advertising and will see through hard-to-believe claims. Trust is the foundation of all brands, irrespective of what is being sold, and authenticity plays a pivotal role in building this trust with customers. Misleading claims that were more tolerated by Boomers have a deeply negative impact on Millennials. Generation Z, as children of brand-skeptical Gen X, are likely to be even more critical of advertising that feels false.
5. Clear motivations
In order to support a brand’s purpose, it’s important to have a clear motivation for why the brand is being promoted. This motive has to be engaging, interesting and meaningful if you are going to gain attention. These motivations will need to address the consumer’s emotional needs as well as cognitive needs.
Since the inception of branding, building trust has been the key to growth and building marketshare. Now that trust has become table stakes, brands will need to evolve and ensure they are truly authentic in every communication, product and experience they offer. Brands that earn the trust of Millennial and Generation Z consumers will do so through an emotional bond that supports relevancy and differentiation.