In 2015, a study conducted by Ipsos, commissioned by the 4A’s, found that only 4 per cent of respondents believe that the advertising industry behaves with integrity. An alarming fact, isn’t it? In a world where almost everyone doesn’t trust the source of the messages, how does one communicate to achieve results?
There is a strong sense of scepticism amongst the consumers; every message that reaches a potential buyer is met with strong scrutiny. Consumers are extremely aware of the brands they choose, irrespective of the scale of purchase. They are evaluating each brand, not only product features and advertising but also based on the company and its practices.
On the other hand, brands face a monumental challenge. Each brand has to craft messages for many more mediums. It is no longer acceptable to create a master creative and adapt the same in multiple formats. Each medium has its own demands that have to be met to ensure efficiency and relevance.
Along with traditional forms of advertising, digital advertising and social media campaigns, it has become increasingly important to have the right brand image of the company and its products in the media. Audiences are increasingly aware of each brand’s reputation. There is easier access to information and opinions through the internet. One bad customer experience can begin the downfall of any brand. The Internet has empowered consumers in a way that no other medium has been able to. Whether it is a bad experience or unfair practices in a company, there is a megaphone hiding in each smartphone, powered and ready to broadcast opinions and spread the message.
Authenticity in the World of Appearances
In the era of information, what makes a brand favourable in the eyes of the customers? What makes them keep coming back to buy more? Above all, what keeps them connected to a brand? The answers lie in a single word – Authenticity.
A fundamental change that has taken place in the world of media is that we are no longer just dispensing information but we are now in an active conversation with our consumers, all the time. Even when the brands are not actively talking, their audience is actively listening and forming an opinion through various sources such as the news, opinions of friends, online reviews, etc. When there are so many sources of information available to your consumers, spotting falsehoods or finding a disconnect in a brand’s message is a million times easier.
In this scenario, the only thing that your consumer is looking for is authenticity. Both, consciously and subconsciously. This adds a layer of detail to the marketing and communications plan. It is important to integrate your message across all mediums and speak the same tone and language. Transparency matters more than ever and providing good customer service through all possible mediums becomes a priority.
Defining your Existence
The Q2 2017 Sprout Social Index illustrates that the majority of consumers want brands to be honest, helpful, and friendly online. The same report states that being responsive, offering promotions, and providing educational content, are the top three brand actions on social media that prompt consumers to purchase a product. These facts prove that consumers are looking for honest and helpful interactions with the brands they associate with.
But this is just one side of being authentic in today’s world. Beyond the promotional messages and the curated content, each brand needs to invest in creating the right image for all stakeholders, including employees. Company policies, CSR, treatment of employees, and environmental policies are some of the few things that can end up in the limelight. To develop an authentic, trustworthy brand image, it is crucial to highlight and publish the positives about a company through the right channels using PR.
The Strategic Change
Building advocacy takes consistent and ardent efforts over a long time. On the other hand, building authenticity takes consistent efforts and a strategic change in how brands approach their customers and marketing. The focus needs to shift from customers to building a customer-centric approach at all levels of the organisation, even if they are not customer-facing. It is important to build people practices that fair and positive to ensure that your most credible brand ambassadors, your employees, stand by your side.
Make a shift from publishing your efforts to demonstrating your efforts through media to show the consumers the true values and beliefs of the entire company and not just a brand. Authenticity can be built only by being authentic, there is no such thing as appearing authentic in today’s transparent world.