In all the excitement, there’s the one big thing that brands can’t afford to forget: Authenticity.
Consumer trust: A critical asset
The world is full of headlines. Big, oxygen-grabbing topics demand our attention. Whether audience or reader, writer or speaker, it’s hard not to relish the drama in terms such as disruption, revolution, and innovation, or to be tempted by a list of a gazillion reasons why robots are coming for your job and how blockchain will explode the global economy.
They paint vivid – and very important – pictures of topics that we would be foolish to ignore. However, spend too much time on the big international news and you can lose sight of some important local issues. These might seem insignificant, but let them run and they will affect you much more quickly than the headline event. The most important of these? Authenticity.
Today, many brands are busy experimenting with new ways of engaging with their audiences. The race to be agile and transform is fast-moving, but it’s no sprint. It takes energy. Lots of it, as you examine and re-examine the ways you engage and convert, segment and dissect, migrating to new models and processes as well as platforms and landscapes. The pressure – and competition – is intense.
Doing this sort of work is distracting, and adds an extra layer of complexity. When listening to companies talk about their issues in this brave new world, the one challenge that stands out is finding a signal in the noise, being notable and remarkable for the right reasons – a partner, companion, and trusted advisor to your customer.
It’s not enough to be where your potential customers are, or even to know where they’re going to be. You need to talk their language. In fact, to do so credibly, you need to make sure that your language is their language, or is something they aspire to.
Not just a product: Consumers buy a company, not just services or goods
Here’s a question – it’s not a particularly elegant one, but it is important: What sort of a purchase do you (or rather, your brand) represent? As in, if you were a single commodity or item, what sort of thing would it be? A luxury item, a daily essential, a cheap-and-cheerful fix, a complex solution, a monthly subscription?
Now, when you buy that thing yourself, how do you feel? What’s going through your head – and what sort of place would you feel most comfortable buying it from?
When you make buy something in your daily life, even if it’s just a pack of chewing gum, there’s a moment of consideration. It might just be to say “I need this,” but it’s just as likely to include feelings like desire (“Ooh, delicious Juicy Fruit will cheer me up!”) as it is resignment (“Extra mint. I ate too many pickled onions”). So even in that split second at the shop counter you’re parsing information, you’re rerunning old Wrigley’s adverts through your subconscious and summoning up which one feels…right.
Bigger-ticket items and services might take longer to choose, but there’s still emotion in that choice. It’s just as important that the customer feels listened to, like they’re in the right place and that this is the right decision. That’s the caveat for preparing to change. Yes, by all means talk to your customers by Snapchat or Instagram, or highly targeted SMS via a network of low energy Bluetooth beacons. But don’t forget where you’re from. Don’t forget your voice.
Having easy, natural conversation is way more useful in persuasion than listing the benefits. That’s why there’s a market for personal trainers. Trusted companions on a journey to a goal, they accompany you without (hopefully) being a full yoga bore.
And your manner, your style, and personality – these need to permeate every single interaction. The moment you screw that up, your credibility will start to drain away. Authenticity might feel like something you’ve already fixed, but ignore it at your peril. You need to keep living and breathing it to keep on top.