How to Seamlessly Match Your Idea of Authenticity to Your Customers’


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Have you ever ordered a mouth-watering item off the menu only to be served an unrecognizable assembly of meat and bread? Or perhaps you purchased a killer outfit online only to have it arrive looking like an old pair of pajamas.

Like any disappointing purchase, inauthentic or misleading marketing can create a visible disconnect between expectations and experience, and don’t be mistaken — customers can sniff out a phony from a mile away.

On the other hand, if customers believe your brand is authentic, you’ll be more likely to establish brand loyalty. But it’s important to remember that authenticity doesn’t materialize out of thin air; it must be defined.

Every industry has a distinct interpretation of authenticity. Taking a step back and clearly defining how your audience perceives authenticity will arm you with insights to inform your communications strategy and build rapport with your customers.

Take these three steps to ensure your team is identifying what your clients view as authentic and meaningful:

1. Set the Standard of Identity

If you haven’t set the standard of identity, let your customers tell you why and how they believe your brand is authentic or — even better — sets the industry standard. Monitor social dialogue, conduct surveys and focus groups, and reach out to customers directly to gauge their perceptions.

Then, reflect on the responses you receive. Parse out which factor makes your brand authentic, and use it to expand your marketing campaigns. It can be something tangible or an underlying, but widely understood personality behind your brand.

For example, consider cashew chicken. It’s one of Springfield, Missouri’s most beloved traditions. To visitors, it can seem odd and out of place, but to natives, it’s an authentic product unique to their hometown, which is what really matters.

It all comes down to understanding your customers’ perceptions of authenticity. If they believe you’re authentic, you are. It’s as simple as that.

2. Shout It From the Mountaintops

Don’t limit yourself to marketing campaigns; communicate your point of authenticity across all channels. It’s an integral part of your brand, so it should appear in your brand’s look and feel, your B2B buying practices, and even your business model. More importantly, it can’t be gimmicky. If it’s shallow — or, worse, disingenuous — customers will sense that. You can’t fall asleep at the wheel and forget to continuously reinforce your brand authenticity.

Take the Dallas restaurant chain Cheddar’s Casual Cafe, for example. The family-style eatery has been around for more than 30 years and has always supported its local community, but it never talks about it. Its patrons recognize and value this fact, and it’s a key driver of its perceived authenticity. But the company could directly communicate their efforts through marketing to bring in new customers who may be seeking a restaurant with similar values.

3. Embrace Variations, But Get Permission First

You might have big plans for tweaking your strategy or pivoting your company, but you shouldn’t make changes without conducing primary research and analyzing customer feedback first. Make sure they’ll buy into your brand evolving before you make the shift.

It can be hard to relinquish control to your customers, and many marketers immediately balk at the idea. “Oh, I’m not asking people what we should or shouldn’t do,” they think. While I respect this notion, understanding what your most faithful customers want and what they’ll support is vital.

The fact is that brands must have believability before they can claim authenticity. So define where your point of authenticity lies, stick to it, and use it to maximize ongoing strategies and communication. That way, when your customer’s order arrives at the table, it won’t disappoint.

Doug Austin
Doug Austin is the SVP of growth and innovation and leads product and brand innovation sessions for Marlin Network. For nearly 30 years, Doug has been studying the "art of observation" and filtering out the human truths. Whether digging for key consumer insights or preparing the next national retail promotion, it's all about the ability to "hear and see" what others may not and asking the hard questions.


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