Authenticity: The Key to Marketing to MillennialsBy Doug Austin

Authenticity. It’s what we all want. And what we all should strive for.

Consumers want real information in real time without fluff, filters, or fine print.

Compared to other generations, today’s buyers are very familiar with communication, media, and digital technologies — meaning they can sniff out fakery from a mile away.

As a result, it’s incredibly important to come clean with consumers.

Using an honest voice and well crafted messaging will offer insights into your business’ decisions, processes, and even failures.

Perhaps most important is focusing on literally “putting your money where your mouth is.”

When expectations and experience don’t match up, the resulting authenticity gap is a quick turnoff.

Industries Still Hunting for Authenticity

Not every sector has caught on to the idea of authenticity first. Below are three industries still infamous for their lack of authenticity.

  • Food and beverage: This industry’s buzzwords, such as “natural,” “organic,” “real,” and “cage-free,” are thrown around with loose meanings and questionable regulations.
  • Textiles: This industry fills clothing labels with empty phrases such as “vintage denim.” What does that really mean? Is it a 50-year-old pair of jeans? A treatment to the denim itself? And, if so, could it actually have been fabricated last Tuesday? How vintage is “vintage”?
  • Agriculture: Think about a term such as “heirloom seed.” It’s meant to evoke images of digging out an old Sears, Roebuck & Co. package of seeds from someone’s grandfather’s shed. Or could it just mean the seeds were from an old variety of a particular vegetable? Nobody’s really sure.

The Three Tenets of Brand Authenticity

What’s a brand to do? Below is a quick guide for beefing up your authenticity.

  1. Hone in on Honesty. Customers today want to know when a company creates something, finds something, or even makes a mistake. They also want to know where you’re sourcing things, what your production or manufacturing processes entail, and the affect of your processes on natural resources. They might question how much water was used to bring a pound of beef to their table, or how much energy it took to package a can of beans.
  2. Talk Transparently. If a company is confident enough to be honest, it should also be transparent. If buyers don’t feel like they’re getting the whole story, they’ll be skeptical of the brand’s messaging. Providing concise, genuine information about your business on a regular basis keeps customers in the loop, and can give you valuable feedback as well.
  3. Exude Integrity. Honesty leads to transparency. Transparency leads to integrity. Those three qualities wrap up a brand’s messaging in a nice package that says, “We’re willing to share where we get our materials, how we make our product, how we distribute it, and how fair we are to our laborers. We have nothing to hide because we strive to always do the right thing.”

Crafting Your Messaging

Careful messaging is the key to reaching consumers. Your messages should fulfill your brand promise and align with the actions your business is taking.

For example, Chipotle produces content to reflect its commitment to using free-range and hormone-free meats.

This campaign resonates because it builds the company’s brand in an artistic way without promoting any specific menu items.

Other key items to keep in mind with messaging are:

  • The value of an open dialogue: People today do their research online, and expect to be able to communicate in real time with brands they like.
  • Collaboration around new products: They also have ideas they want to share. They expect to be heard and have a chance to get in on the fun by providing feedback or taking part in think tanks.
  • Forums for sharing: These can come in many shapes and styles, from social media pages to car shows. The important thing is that the forum makes sense in context for both your brand positioning and industry.

Your customers and clients want to do business with companies driven by authenticity: Honesty, transparency, and integrity. If your business fits the bill, don’t be shy about publicizing it!

Give everyone a chance to join the conversation, and you may just turn a hesitant skeptic into an outspoken brand advocate.

Doug Austin

For nearly 30 years, Doug Austin has been studying the “art of observation” and filtering out the human truths. Austin is the SVP of Growth & Innovation and leads product and brand innovation sessions for Marlin Network.

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