A lot of companies talk about being authentic because we all gravitate to organizations that feel honest; it’s refreshing and builds trust. But today the guy who says “trust me, we're honest” has the opposite of the intended affect.
Being Real Isn't as Easy as it Sounds
In branding, authenticity is defined as delivering on your brand promise. Say what you are, and relentlessly back it up. Of course you must have a brand promise to begin with, which means standing for something in everything that you do. It's actually the opposite of being exactly who you are, because if you show all the different aspects of your company, you will confuse your customers who won't understand what you "authentically" stand for. As a person, you're complex and hard to define simply and quickly, but your brand message should not be.
3 Obvious/Not Obvious Ways to be Authentic
1. Don't Say You're Honest, BE Honest
Not because you are dishonest, but because everyone says they are honest (and nobody says they are dishonest). This white-washed message carries little weight in the eye of the consumer. To be authentic, you must instead demonstrate your honesty through the actions and behavior of your brand. Don’t say anything you aren’t 100% confident you can back up.
"You Above All"
All airlines say they are about the customers, but JetBlue does an amazing job of making all of their company decisions in line with their brand promise. Fewer rows in each plane for more legroom, first bag checked for free, unlimited free snacks and Direct TV. This is a brand that you really believe puts “you above all” and the success of their company is not unrelated to their badass authenticity.
Those authentic actions become stories told to friends, increasing the people in your sales pipeline over time. Conversely, not fulfilling your brand promise through actions makes that an even more fun story to share, and not in your favor. And that means lasting damage to your image and business.
2. Owning a Negative Has Just as Much Potential
Since everyone says they have great customer service, their product is the best, yadda yadda... these messages can start to feel trite and, at times, even dishonest.
In the last few years, Dominos has been playing up their less-than-gourmet pizza in an ad campaign, inviting, and then showing off, all the brutal criticisms. This vulnerability and honesty about their product worked, the campaign (and new recipe) catapulted the chain’s stock price from $12 per share to more than $75 in 4 years.
Being authentic in this way very badass. It takes guts to show your flaws and being unapologetic about what it is your company really cares about and what it doesn't care about, which are equally important. This approach to branding inherently makes your business stand out as different in the face of a sea of corporate jargon and bland sameness. Keep it up and don't fall into the vacuum of status quo; that continued effort will build your authenticity over time.
3. Terrible Situations Are Your Chance To Be “Authentic”
You don’t have to be perfect, quite the opposite! When hiccups do happen (and they do for everyone), look at it as an opportunity to flex those muscles and show customers those benefits you have been selling. By handling the situation in line with your brand promises, you'll get everyone raving about your great customer service before you have a chance to brag about yourself (*note: bragging sucks, other people bragging about you is delicious)
Authenticity is built by how a company acts everyday with every client interaction, not by saying it's so. Be it a luxury company whose touch points are always dressed to the nines, or a service company who always responds to email within 30 minutes (even if just to say you will get back to your customer with an answer shortly). Being yourself, or "authentic", takes direction, planning, and consistent effort.