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  • Tony Chilvers
    Industry Expert

    Tony Chilvers is a marketing and communications specialist with experience in multiple industries in South Africa and Australia

    Tony Chilvers
    Industry Expert

    Tony Chilvers is a marketing and communications specialist with experience in multiple industries in South Africa and Australia

    Marketing and advertising are crucial when building a brand. However, there’s another piece of the jigsaw that’s often overlooked: authenticity. Here’s why, as a business owner, being yourself matters.

    Whether your business comprises of 200 staff across two or three offices, or you’re a sole operator in the comfort of your home office; business authenticity is crucial in building a brand that matters to customers.

    In a 2014 Brand Authenticity study exploring the key findings of the year’s most authentic brands, Cohn&Wolfe showed that perceived brand authenticity played an important role in shifting brand awareness and consideration. Here are a few lessons from the report.

    A stylish man walking along the street

    What you say can be more meaningful than what you do

    Cohn&Wolfe found that communicating honestly about your business products or services, your view on sustainability and the environment for example, formed Authenticity Anchors that skewed brand perception more strongly than actual product utility or level of service.

    As a small business owner, personal reputation is incredibly important. This reputation needs to be mirrored and exist across the entire business, and be applied by all staff. Having a clear business mission statement and a set of guiding philosophies will help establish the business ethos. This includes a way of behaving and speaking that helps growing teams navigate a world of demanding customers. 

    When brand loyalty is high, the customers will come

    From the same study, 63 per cent of respondents claimed they would buy from an authentic brand. Furthermore, these loyal customers became advocates, with 59 per cent tending to recommend a brand they trust.

    Being generous with information helps build relationships with your customers. Loyal customers that share this information on behalf of your brand put their reputation alongside yours. Relationships are crucial in expanding networks and growing opportunity for new revenue, as well as increasing revenue generated through the perceived value of your existing products that comes from brand advocacy.

    Product value increases based on how the brand communicates

    According to Cohn&Wolfe and their Global Anger Meter, respondents want the truth about how their food is sourced and produced. They want to understand the reliability of products they purchase and demand to know if it is fair-trade, ethical and sustainable. The safety of personal information and overall data security are an ongoing concern for the public as devices and brand engagements increasingly move to the cloud.

    A product price tag is nothing more than that. Global access to information has created a smart, curious audience that scrutinises the details of every product. Brands (whether they’re local or international) that offer up business transparency are able to engage with their customers in ways other businesses may not be able to. 

    Four ways to score on brand authenticity

    The Perceived Brand Authenticity Scale – to be published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology – offers these four key areas for ensuring achievable brand authenticity for your small business.

    1. Offer continuity and consistency. Does your brand have a history in the local area? If your brand is able to weather the test of time and survive the influence of trends, then you’re creating a brand that offers continuity.
    2. Be credible. Is your brand honest and transparent? Beware of behaviour that betrays the trust of your audience and focus on initiatives that complement your brand’s values.
    3. Have integrity. Does your brand have a set of moral principles, values or guiding philosophies? Be a brand that cares about its customers, and also gives back to the community.
    4. Symbolism. Does your brand connect people with what is important to them? By reflecting on important values that people care about, you’re consistently adding value to your customers’ lives.
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