Our agency, Cohn & Wolfe, just released its fourth-annual study on brand authenticity. In the study, we polled 12,000 consumers around the world in 14 different markets to ask them about the authentic behavior of brands. We asked, “What makes a brand authentic,” and “What brands are doing it well?”
These brands were of course blockbuster global brands and / or market leaders in their country of business. These are the big guys.
As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we can learn a lot from these brands, and every year we learn something new in the study. This year was no exception.
The main takeaway?
For any kind of brand, big or small, actions speak louder than words.
While consumers rated brands on 18 different attributes of authenticity, only a few bubbled to the top in a very different way than in prior years. From this we can learn a lot!
In the past, consumers have valued a brand’s authenticity based on its stated values, its policies on community and the environment, and on its commitment to employees. These are all authentic qualities that come from what brands communicate to their constituents. Admirable for sure, but authentic?
Yes, in the past, but not so much anymore.
This year’s study revealed a major shift in those perceptions of authenticity: It’s less about what a brand says it does and more about a brand’s daily interactions with those constituents.
In fact, there’s quite a bit of cynicism, as 78 percent of consumers stated that brands aren’t open and honest. Ouch.
This is such an important lesson for entrepreneurs.
Actions really do speak louder than words.
So, while you marvel at the big companies’ mission statements and value propositions and stated values... none of that is really meaningful unless it’s backed up by real, honest actions.
This is where entrepreneurs shine.
We are close to our businesses, we are in the pit with our teams, and we interact one-on-one with our customers. As entrepreneurs, our daily actions are our brands, and they are our brand authenticity.
According to the study, there’s no better way to be than that.
If you approach each customer interaction in a real, caring and honest manner, they will view you as authentic -- and they will value you for it. Back it up with some hard-earned expertise, and they will be customers for a very long time. They will trust your actions, realize that you are on their side, and they will reward you for it.
This is what makes us entrepreneurs.
In fact, 88 percent of consumers in the study said that they would purchase, recommend or invest in a brand that is authentic. Big brand or not.
And this is what makes us successful entrepreneurs!