The days of inauthentic, sleazy sales messaging is gone. A new generation of savvy, well informed consumers demand the truth, transparency, and authenticity when making purchasing decisions. False narratives, green washing, and white washing are gross, and I’m not talking about your dirty laundry.
The authentic brand
Authentic branding is a new marketing must that you can put into practice now to increase your bottom line, and feel good at the same time. After all, 91% of consumers say they would support an authentic brand with their dollars. In an age of political dishonesty mixed with decades of outbound marketing tactics (think Mad Men), consumers are fed up with being lied to. This opens an opportunity for authentic brands to rise above their peers to win the day. So, how exactly do you create and share your authentic brand story with your audience?
Make It Personal
Your product might be amazing, useful, and fully-featured, but your customers aren’t just looking to solve their pain point. Just as important is their perception of your brand and how it makes them feel. An authentic brand at its core speaks entirely to your customer’s personal aspirations. It’s not your feature list. It’s not your price. It’s not even the solution. These are all expected to be right. What’s usually not expected, but often richly rewarded, is when your brand is genuine, honest, thoughtful, and the opposite of salesy. With so many choices in the market, authentic branding is the new differentiator.
Authentic branding in practice
Think and act like your audience. Adopt their beliefs and struggles. Get to know their values, their needs, their desires—then apply this understanding into every touch point of your brand. Your authentic brand story will emerge as you tweak your messaging, colors, imagery, and content to better reflect the identity of your audience.
Pricing low is a race to the bottom
Authenticity isn’t about being “nice.” It’s about being honest, so here’s a word of caution on pricing: If your authenticity relies on being the cheapest option on the market, you’re setting yourself up for failure. When price is the primary motivator for your audience, they’ll never forgive you when your prices eventually do go up. They will perceive it as inauthentic to your brand and will look elsewhere.
Don’t talk about price
Get rid of price differentiation in your communications. Instead, highlight the unique aspects of your business as they relate to your audience and their personal ambitions. I recently spoke with a gluten-free baker where I live in Burlington, Vermont. She was concerned that her prices were too high, and she thought she could earn more business if she tried to compete on price with traditional bakers. You can guess my reaction. Hold the phone! Do not pass go!
This race to the bottom approach would garner zero goodwill, and in no way endure her brand to her audience. She would simply be known as the cheapest option. Instead, I encouraged her to up her prices a tad. Seriously. Her offering was unique enough in this small market that price was unlikely to be a major purchasing decision for her customers. Many were just thankful for a local option.
Rather than talk price, I encouraged her to speak honestly about her product. To talk up the health benefits, the value of small-batch recipes, the quality of the local ingredients, and most importantly the way the product makes people feel (especially those with gluten intolerance). This is authentic branding.
Authenticity is reality
We’re smothered by inauthentic marketing. From fast food chains that promote their products as healthy to oil giants who espouse environmental stewardship, most consumers can smell the bullshit. For some, dishonesty is effective, but it’s laborious to constantly stretch the truth. Without a war chest to mislead, dishonesty just doesn’t work, nor should it.
Find the authentic narrative within your product that resonates honestly with your audience. Connect it to their plight, their goals, their pain points, and then provide a great solution. Your audience will remember the value you provided, but more importantly the way your brand made them feel. Anything else is just a race to the bottom.
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