Authentic brands: the real advantage
Competing against the big boys can be draining, but there are some areas where small businesses have a hidden advantage, and building an authentic brand is one of them.
What is an authentic brand?
An authentic brand does what it says it is going to do. Of course, by definition that will vary from business to business, but often includes a really compelling brand story, a distinctive, funny or quirky personality or an original or sincere promise.
The supermarket is a good place to go Authentic Brand Hunting. Colourful brands with big personalities and commendable credentials jostle for shelf space, and we can’t get these fun and friendly brands into our trollies fast enough. See brands like Tyrrells, Nakd, and Belvoir for clear examples of how this works.
So why are authentic brands important for small businesses?
They build loyalty and trust. A recent global study by Cohn & Wolfe* identifies that 78% of consumers think that brands are not open or honest. This authenticity deficit leaves consumers cynical, and yearning to buy brands which consistently deliver on their promises and interact with integrity.
Small businesses like yours have a distinct opportunity to meet this need. Big business tries to be authentic, small business just is. That’s the difference.
The journey from your original vision for the business to the delivery of your end product is so much shorter than in a big business, which means less chances for your brand values to get tangled in red tape or mangled by mumbling call centre staff.
You decide on the experience you want to deliver to your customers, and then you make sure it gets delivered. Simple.
Honesty is the best policy
Social media and the growth of online communities are another reason that we are seeing a rise in authentic brands. To be blunt – there is nowhere to hide from an unhappy customer. In the old days a bad experience may have been shared with a handful of friends, now it can be shared with your entire customer base in one caustic tweet.
Social media is a great leveler, and with no ivory towers to hide in, bosses of businesses big and small have to show up and face their customers.
This has led to a trend for more open and honest dialogue with customers, creating a seismic shift in customers’ expectations and businesses’ tone of voice.
What’s your promise?
Chances are you are already authentic. Most of the small businesses we work with are, as strong values are usually at the heart of why you started your business in the first place, and the life blood of how you run it.
The next step is to make sure you are communicating these values to your customers through your brand promise.
Once you have articulated your brand promise, if you feel enthused, motivated and perfectly aligned with your brand, you know you are onto something authentic.
An authentic lifestyle brand should enrich your customers lives in some way, feed their aspirations, and make them evangelize about your products, hopefully to their many social media followers.
Keep keeping it real, people.