In today’s marketplace, brands and products come and go at supersonic speeds.
An estimated 250,000 products are launched each year. These products have an average 85 to 95 percent failure rate. It’s a sobering statistic, but hardly surprising given our penchant for new and better, and the rapid pace at which business operates today.
While new brands come and go, a few exceptions stand out. Levis, Ford Motors, Apple are well-known and enduring names that have survived over a number of decades. What’s the secret to some brands’ staying power? Why do some stick around while others fizzle out or go bust?
For the first time, trust and transparency are just as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services, according to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey on trust and credibility. In fact, in the U.S., these two attributes even rank higher than product quality.
Wary of scams, rip-offs and shady marketing tactics, customers are starting to see the world more in terms of real and fake. More often than not, they’re basing their purchasing decisions on how genuine they perceive an offer to be.
Unfortunately though, many companies don’t practice authenticity. Instead, they try to build their companies around what they think people want to hear.
But listening to customers and simply parroting back what they say isn’t going to build customer loyalty. It’s not about trapping customers with incredible promises. Instead, it’s about boldly proclaiming what you believe, and then stepping back to see who is drawn to the message.
Authentic brands are able to secure a loyal following -- a tribe, if you will. Satisfied customers will share their experiences with friends and family, and if the company stays true to its message and continues to provide products that are in line with the customers’ expectations, it’ll be on the way toward developing a brand that will be able to stand the test of time.
If you’re thinking of launching a startup or developing a brand, here’s how being open and credible can help you to lay a solid foundation and build for lasting success.
1. Define your values and mission.
First off, decide what your authenticity lies in. You’ll need to choose which values you are ready to commit to unwaveringly. Is it your commitment to supporting a specific cause? Is it your dedication to building products that will change people’s lives? Whatever it is, it’s important to own it, so choose something that you’re passionate about.
Warning: Don’t half-heartedly commit to a set of values that you’re not fully ready to embrace. This is the best way to kill a brand. Your customers will see through the ruse and it will only damage your reputation.
2. Get to know your personality and the personality of your brand.
Is your personality and your brand’s personality aligned? You are the face of your company, and it’s important to make sure your branding is compatible with who you are.
3. Set your boundaries.
It’s important to be aware of your boundaries and to know the difference between stretching yourself for growth and allowing others to push you past your comfort zone. Draw a line in the sand, and as important issues arise, take a stand. Decide which things you will be unwavering on.
4. Determine how and where you will showcase your authenticity.
Look for opportunities to showcase your authenticity. Whether it’s online with social media or your blog, or in behind-the-scenes interactions with others, get to know your audience and allow them to know you too.
5. Release your authenticity.
How far should you go to demonstrate your authenticity? Determine where you will demonstrate your values and how far you want to go. Then make a plan for your release.
6. Be consistent.
Keep your messages consistent. The messages that you’re sending out through marketing, promotions and social media should be in line with the in-person experience that you provide to customers.
7. Prepare for backlash.
Finally, be prepared for opposition. When you gain a certain level of publicity, you’re going to have haters. Plain and simple. Don’t let this discourage you or distract you from your values and mission. Stay true to your beliefs, and you’ll gain respect from those around you. Your loyal customer base will have your back!
In the end, embracing your startup's authentic self is about being true to your values and following through on your promises to customers.
Embracing authenticity isn’t for everyone, but those who choose to use this as the basis for establishing a business or a brand will find that building a company on a solid foundation provides tremendous, lasting stability -- no matter what changes may be ahead.
Are your core values linked with your branding or business strategy? How do you demonstrate authenticity in your branding? Tell us in the comments section below.