Is Miller beer “genuine?” Is Coke the “real” thing?
Brand authenticity was a buzz-phrase even before the recession, as marketers sought to understand how strong brands succeed in building loyalty with consumers.
Some brands are genuinely perceived as, well, genuine. But what does that mean?
Authenticity is being true to one’s own character and values in the face of external pressure. For brands, this means standing for something beyond profit-taking. Something that never changes, even during tough times.
Numerous marketing experts have considered brand authenticity. They agree on two points:
- Brands have been selling authenticity since the beginning of marketing.
- Consumers generally aren’t buying it.
In an excellent post at Brand Insight Blog, John Furgurson quotes a Fast Company article: “Consumers believe, until they’re shown otherwise, that every brand is governed by an ulterior motive: to sell something. But if a brand can convincingly argue that its profit-making is only a by-product of a larger purpose, authenticity sets in.”
He concludes, “The authentic (brands) are faithful to something other than just profits. They have a higher purpose, and they don’t compromise their core values in order to turn a quick buck.”
Higher purpose is often encapsulated within the brand essences of strong brands. Affinity brands, such as Patagonia, Harley-Davidson and Whole Foods, couldn’t be more clear about what they stand for.
As discussed in a previous post, authenticity cannot be fabricated out of thin air. Rather, if it exists, it is inherent in the concept and principles of the organization. To uncover what a brand stands for, look inside.
When present, authenticity is a powerful and sustainable competitive advantage.