At one point, marketing experts suggested that companies should feign authenticity until they actually earned it. However, times have changed drastically. Today’s tech-savvy consumer will see right through any airs you put on, which can spell doom for an inauthentic campaign.
Some pundits have even opined that obviously phony sentiments can generate an angry base of otherwise potential customers. That’s not the right way to start any business operation.
Brand honesty is by no means a new concept. People have been trying to capture some level of authenticity since the very first products ever went on the market. The fact that so many companies are attempting to present themselves in such a genuine way to their consumers has a great deal to do with the increasingly synthetic world we live in.
The Changing Face of Corporate Identities
Back in the 1990s, a number of otherwise faceless companies suddenly attempted to rebrand themselves as edgy and new. While this was done to appeal to an increasingly young and vibrant demographic, it came off as unbelievably stale to many consumers who saw right through the bravado. As a result, many firms ended up losing ground as consumers decried what they perceived as outsiders taking over subcultures they identified with.
Perhaps the biggest reason that these programs didn’t amount to anything was the fact that these companies failed to base a plan in reality. While it might make sense for a company that’s a rebellious upstart Silicon Valley firm to adopt this sort of image, it just doesn’t work very well for a major established firm that everyone thinks of as a big corporation.
Over time, marketing gurus realized that there’s a secret to communicating with customers that can show them how genuine they are. Screenwriters have long said that it’s better to show moviegoers something in a film than it is to tell it to them. As soon as people began applying this concept to marketing, they were able to show customers how sincere they were as opposed to just telling them.
Actions speak louder than words, so over time corporations have done their best to use them to help convince potential consumers that they’re actually serious about things. Even though you’d never want to build an entire marketing campaign around the concept of word-of-mouth advertising, it’s long been believed that this is the most powerful form of marketing because people are more likely to believe a trusted friend or a member of their family than a corporate suit.
Successful marketing specialists have actually been able to parlay this phenomenon into the current influencer scene, which in turn has helped to reach an increasingly tech-savvy demographic of shoppers belonging to the so-called Z Generation.
Generation Z Buying from Generation X & Y
Those who might be struggling to keep up with the constant passage of demographics have probably focused largely on marketing to Millennial shoppers. However, Generation Z has promised to really shake up the way that people purchase products and services online.
Generation Z is almost exclusively focused on authenticity. While those born in 1996 and before might be concerned with social responsibility and other more esoteric aspects of the brands they connect with, Gen Z shoppers have an infatuation with these important issues that you can use to connect with them.
A recent study showed that 89 percent of those in that demographic would prefer to buy from a company that supported solving certain social and environmental problems. If your company has long backed these sort of issues, then now is the time to flaunt it.
Hypocrisy, however, might be the greatest sin in the eyes of many of these increasingly affluent consumers. Companies that make statements about positive things that they have a track record of fighting against are going to suffer a major backlash.
There’s also a major risk that you could make a comment about something totally unrelated to your business and end up turning off a big chunk of your potential customer base before they ever have a chance to open up their wallets.
Making the Most Authentic Statements at the Right Time
Say a company that deals with free and open-source software makes a strong statement about customer privacy and copyright reform. The base of this company’s clientele will probably feel strongly about what said firm is standing for.
However, that same company might also make some comment on social media about a hot-button political issue in the hopes of generating a great deal of buzz. Should that issue not be directly related to their business model they’re going to end up getting a great deal of negative publicity as a result.
Keep this in mind whenever you feel like you want to make a statement. Everyone from Boomers to Gen Z hipsters will buy into genuine things. They’ll also be just as likely to turn against companies that don’t stand for what they claim to believe in.