In Search of Authentic Brands
This communication gig gets trickier every day. For years, those of us in consumer PR have been laboring under the belief that all we need to do for our clients is to create brand awareness for their product or service, add in an event or stunt and voila! Buyers appear!
That perception underwent a massive shift with the realization that one had to identify, find and engage with consumers – hello social, influencers and content. Well, here we go again, and not a second too soon. Welcome to the age of the authentic brand – brand storytelling shaped to represent the soul of a brand and to reflect the real or perceived identity of its believers, not buyers.
Not long ago came a company named Brandless. A brand without a brand. According to the company, consumers don’t want emotional connections to brands, they don’t want to pay a premium for the sales, marketing and management that’s hidden in the price of many popular products and services. They say consumers want to buy “what’s inside” and only what’s inside. No filler, fluff or other stuff.
I agree. And I don’t.
I agree that today’s consumer cares less about brand names and the hidden extras that lead to higher prices. But, it’s not the logo, price and packaging that consumers are walking away from. Rather, they’re rejecting the lack of transparency that defines their brand experiences and makes them regard these businesses skeptically.
But, I don’t believe a stripped down, generic, no fuss offer is what they want either. I believe consumers choose products and services based on two things: an authentic story and an experience with that brand which “helps us be the people we want to be.”
To me, authentic brands are those built on an honest past, as well as products, services and experience that support consumers’ best vision of themselves.
Consumers will respond to and reward brands that tell stories that are steeped in truth, or history, or meaning. As shoppers, we buy stuff and experiences that make our life fuller, richer, and better, not only easier, smarter, and cheaper. In other words, folks want to look in their closet, or their refrigerator, or their phone and buy into a brand or a message that reflects who we want to be and the life we want to live.
Today, smart brands will dig deep to develop their authentic story, one that doesn’t shift with the prevailing winds, but rather is a true reflection of their value and their consumers ideals and they’ll share that story in rich, satisfying, relatable ways that encourage buyers to reach out and grab a piece of the story for themselves.
One March client, Notarize, is rooted in a real-life experience from one of its founders, who couldn’t find a way to get some important business documents notarized while he was traveling abroad. It risked messing up an important deal, which inspired him to create Notarize, a digital platform that allows for legal, online document notarization. It’s an authentic story that points to a specific user need or challenge.
Another is Ladder. Its founder Brett Mallolly is a former professional baseball player and his family was in the commercial fitness industry. Over the years, he saw first-hand the dysfunction prevalent in the traditional gym industry – from the low wages and professional disrespect paid to personal trainers, to the high cost, but low usage associated with traditional gym memberships. Ladder was created to help trainers build digital businesses on the one end and provide access to quality health and wellness exerts at an affordable price point on the other. Ladder is a model built on personal experience made relevant for the masses.
Shaping an authentic story is one of the three pillars to innovative brand storytelling. So, give us the real deal and an opportunity to find our truth in that. Authentic brands will be rewarded.