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Consumer trust in brands is declining. In 2018, only 48% of U.S. consumers said they trusted businesses, which is down 10 percentage points from the previous year. People see through brands that are too commercial or fake. They want authenticity.
Being authentic in business means showing your real and sometimes faulty personality. Not being perfect is preferred. People want to buy from people — not companies. And being imperfect will ultimately help humanize your brand. The dating app Bumble is one of the latest brands to adopt the “real people, not paid actors” approach by featuring actual Bumble users in ads. The #FindThemOnBumble campaign lets users see themselves in the advertising and connect with real people.
For small businesses striving to get market share, developing an authentic persona can help you stand out. Showing your real side — even using less-than-perfect tools — communicates that you’re not simply trying to sell but that you are relatable and trustworthy. And that’s a much better way to win customers.
Personality Over Polish
Consumers are exposed to as many as 5,000 ads (paywall) each day. This abundance of messaging is too easy to tune out, but honesty cuts through the clutter. For example, clients with my company who use social media to authentically connect through self-shot videos and personal posts get three to five times the engagement and conversions. A recent client was spending about $21 for each cost per lead. After implementing videos, the cost per lead plummeted to $4.55 apiece. Image-only ads received only a few likes and comments from time to time. Video ads, on the other hand, were generating likes and comments daily—and shares, as well.
Genuine brands talk like people do. Especially on social media, brands are becoming less scripted and looser with their communication style. But many business owners are still afraid to get too real. They worry that appearing imperfect will turn people off. I’m here to tell you: Being fake is worse. Consumers are constantly talking about and scrutinizing brands online, so if you’re dishonest, people will find out. It’s much better to embrace your quirks and be up front about mistakes. You’ll attract people who appreciate your transparency and are primed to be valuable long-term customers.
Three Mediums That Showcase Authenticity
Many tools are at your disposal to develop an authentic brand persona. Various platforms let you highlight different aspects of your business, but you should play to each medium’s strengths. Here are some ways to capitalize on video, advertising and social media:
1. Videos provide a slice of life.
Videos let your audience really see the personality, culture and energy of your company. At my company, we post videos every week of our team outings, networking events and speaking engagements, as well as interviews with our team members. These unscripted videos show clients the real people behind our company, and we’ve reaped the results: more referrals, more lead contacts and longer client relationships. We can see the difference in ad performance when we do side-by-side comparisons. Also, our clients’ clients tell them in conversation that they see those types of videos and they mean more to them.
For authentic videos, use your people and the equipment you have on hand. You won’t get the polish of a professionally produced spot, and that’s what your audience will like. In fact, when lifestyle brand Refinery29 used high-quality cameras and a professional actress, their viewers objected. They wanted the company to stick to featuring candid women, not paid actors. Going the authentic route has helped Refinery29 attract almost 2 million YouTube subscribers.
2. Social media creates conversation.
Social media allows business owners to give voice to their brands and interact with customers in a more personal way. Photo and video on social media spread your message, but beyond sharing content, social platforms allow you to have a dialogue with your customers.
Airbnb is doing social media right, but it really shines by providing excellent customer service in a genuine voice. When customers take to Twitter to complain, Airbnb answers quickly with responses that sound like a real person is behind them. Airbnb also has fun on social platforms, jumping in on ongoing conversations, such as thanking a guest for not eating their host’s Tide Pods. Fans love seeing a human side to the business.
3. Original advertising gets attention.
Creating a genuine voice in your advertising is a bigger obstacle because consumers are skeptical of anything that looks like advertising. You have to take a fresh approach. Don’t be afraid to bring up real topics or to be yourself. Even if some people judge you, it gets attention, which helps your business grow.
Take it from Patagonia: The outdoor apparel retailer knew its customers cared about sustainability, and it famously used advertising to encourage them to reuse and repair their clothing items instead of buying new ones. Going a step farther in 2017, the brand used its first-ever TV spot not to encourage its customers to make purchases but instead to protect public lands. This authenticity has connected deeply with customers, resulting in considerable growth in both profits and customer base for the retailer.
Every medium presents a different opportunity to show authenticity in your advertising. But across platforms, there are constants: Do feature real people and speak with a human voice, and don’t be afraid to show your flaws or make mistakes. Customers don’t trust brands that are too polished and scripted, so the best way to win over your audience is by being yourself.
April 15, 2019 at 08:59AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs