Aimee is the CEO and lead visionary at Madison Taylor Marketing. Read more here.
Think of today’s biggest brands. What have they done differently from everyone else? What’s the “it” factor that keeps customers coming back for more?
Traditionally, companies have tried to answer these questions. They have focused on market metrics, consumer interest surveys and strategic marketing campaigns in an effort to build a loyal customer base and strong brand recognition. However, despite their best efforts, many companies have struggled to find their own ‘it’ factors. What these companies fail to realize is that the most popular brands are not successful just because of their products and strategies. They are successful because they are authentic.
The increasing importance of authenticity in marketing
In today’s market, authenticity can be the deciding factor for a brand’s success. In fact, don’t do it alone 90% of customers report that authenticity is an important factor in determining which brands they like, but Millennials and Gen Z (nearly 140 million people) now prefer brands that are “real and organic” rather than “perfect and well packaged” . To help companies build an authentic brand, speaker Simon Sinek divides a brand into three main questions:
1. What does the company do?
2. How are they doing?
3. Why are they doing it?
Most companies understand what they are doing. They know the products and services they sell. Fewer companies can concretely outline how their value propositions and business processes deliver value to a customer. And only a select few can clearly articulate the ultimate reason why the company exists in the first place. They understand not only what they do or how they do it, but why they do it in the first place.
Focus on ‘why’
What sets the most successful brands apart is their ability to start with their “why” – to dig deep, identify their ultimate reason for being and align everything in their business with that purpose. Rather than simply attracting customers to buy their products, successful brands focus on authentically building relationships with customers who share the same values and beliefs as they do. These companies address customers not based on their product offerings, but based on their core identity and purpose. Successful brands post their “why” central to everything they do.
When brands take the lead with their “why,” they are harnessing the real magic of marketing and business, leading to better results, increased brand awareness, and higher levels of customer satisfaction and trust.
In a 2019 study, researchers found that brand authenticity is linked to self-reinforcing assets, meaning it can gradually strengthen and increase a company’s competitive advantage with customers. Brand authenticity enables companies to build better customer relationships, promote brand proximity and encourage them to make a purchase. The trust relationship formed with the customer is iterative and regenerative, so that companies gain exponential benefits over time.
Take Patagonia for example. Since the company’s inception, the brand has been committed to developing quality products that encourage conservation and minimal consumption. The owner of the brand announced this in 2022 98% of the company’s stock would be donated to a non-profit trust dedicated to saving the planet. After this bold authentic step, customer perception of the brand skyrocketed. After taking note of the donated shares, 42% of adults those aware of the brand reported being more likely to purchase Patagonia products in the future.
Drafting a “why” statement
Creating a “why” statement requires a company to identify its core purpose for existence – and do so in a clear, concise, and actionable manner.
Companies can often point to several reasons for what they do. The challenge here is to tap into the larger purpose that underpins all those reasons. To do this, companies must collectively identify and enumerate the reasons behind the brand’s existence. From here, they can work to identify common themes, with the ultimate goal of building a golden thread of purpose that connects all of these reasons. Once this thread is specified, the company can work to operationalize it by creating a clear, concise, and actionable “why.” Remember that “why” statements should inspire people to take action and believe in what they are doing, both employees and customers.
Building authentic strategies that embody the ‘why’
Once defined and established, a “why” statement should make organizational decisions simpler, more streamlined, and more consistent. In fact, “why” statements embody existing company DNA. By articulating a brand’s core identity, companies will find it easier to review their functions, competencies and processes to ensure they are aligned with that identity. To do this, brands should ask:
“Do this [process, function, competency, etc.] Help & Support [“why” statement]?”
If the answer is yes, brands can move forward with confidence and authenticity. If the answer is no, or if the “how” behind it is unclear, companies should take the time to review and refine their strategies. The ultimate goal is for everybody in the organization to ask themselves how everything– from major initiatives, such as product or service offerings, to smaller items, such as blogs and social media posts – supports the “why” of the brand.
It’s important to remember that companies cannot bend or manipulate their “why” to fit what they do. Everything the brand does should start with “why” and go from there. Doing something simply because competitors are doing it—or because market trends support it—doesn’t bode well for cultivating authenticity. Making exceptions and justifying activities based on competition or market trends will ultimately dilute the brand.
Brands must deliberately establish strategies and processes rooted in their “why”. By clearly defining the “why” behind what they do — and by considering how different activities support that core identity — companies can do business authentically, build brand consistency, and support public marketing efforts.