Brand Authenticity — Farewell 'Bling'
I have noticed in more recent years a growing desire for authenticity. Not so very long ago in most of your town's you could find successful fast food chains selling food which was not very good for you. Figures are falling dramatically as we take greater responsibility for ourselves and how we live our lives. We are trying to find truths in everything.
Driven by the need for increasing authenticity the feeling of closeness between creator and consumer we are seeing the rise of a local presence and a new kind of consumer intimacy.
This rising trend is now becoming mainstream, where luxury brands must be ready with products and services that have that kind of authenticity. The bling culture seems to be fading with the demise of Russia's, the shrinking economy and slowdowns in China and new consumer savvy connected hipsters across the globe. Luxury is being redefined very quickly.
I think this new luxury will see the return to the essence which gave birth to it. The idea of the Artisan and hand-crafting products with passion. Authenticity helps to fuel success in today's overcrowded markets as consumers search for greater meaning and sincerity from the brands they choose. There is a desire to connect with things that feel safe, certain and unambiguous.
At its heart authenticity is about practising what you preach, being totally clear about who you are and what you do best. When a brand's rhetoric gets out of sync with the customers actual experiences the brand’s integrity and future persuasiveness suffers.
It's important you allow your brand to have a voice that sounds familiar to your demographic. Consumers want a dialogue with brands, a conversation. Avoid droning on like a press release, and don't be frightened of being emotional. Authentic brands are built day by day. More often than not, a lot of little things add up to an authentic brand. Authenticity is about not making claims you cannot deliver.
Take the luxury sector which has flourished for the past 10 years but the good times have started to stall. We are now seeing a shift towards experiences in brand engagement and a major mindset change in the perception of value. Why buy a $10,000 handbag when you can book a trip to Thailand.
Authenticity has its limits and brands cannot stretch to sell everything. Big brands face challenges from new entrants focused on narrow but well-defined niches snatching market share from existing brands because of their clarity of purpose. Authenticity connects nicely with the new social consumer trawling the digital landscape by the hour in search of something to express their individualism. Embedding true stories and sharing ownership by way of conversations rapidly reduces brand suspicion.
Digital platforms are creating new, interactive experiences every minute. This year Instagram is taking the fashion world by storm. According to research there has been a 400% increase from last year in Instagram posts of fashion brands. Designers are focused on giving Instagram's influencers special treatment and access to the shows and collections trying to make them fall in love.
The brands that capture the minds of millennial's will have authentic, original content. They will not be afraid to play in the digital space and appeal to independent thinkers in new and interesting ways. They will become the arbiters of cool and make unexpected connections.
By 2035 millennials will have the potential to become the largest spending generation in history, their influence will be felt enormously and they are just beginning to enter their peak earning years with significant disposable income for experiences of all kinds. Luxury to capture the hearts and minds of these millennials will need to redefine itself.
Millennial's prefer experiences to things.
Luxury is no longer the exclusive territory of handbags, shoes and watches. It now includes experiences like farm to table dining, Uber and luxe travel — even ‘glamping’ in the Himalayas. Fashion brands are blurring the line between luxury items and experiences.
Authenticity is about creating and delivering on four things well:
Continuity, Credibility, Integrity, & Symbolism.
Do you have a brand that will survive time and trends? Can you make it timeless and give it a sense of history? It needs to be honest and not betray your customers, one that accomplishes its value promise. It's important your brand gives something back to its consumers. It has moral principles and a good compass on life, and cares about its customers. It must symbolise something meaningful to people's lives. Reflect the important values that they care about. Connect with people and their real selves on things that they think are really important.
I'm convinced that brand authenticity is a growing driver of brand choice. Of growing importance it is fast becoming a major contributor to sales. From a psychological perspective, this makes sense. In the world where we use brands not only to reduce risk when buying, but also to express ourselves, validate ourselves and manage our image.
Brand authenticity matters because personal authenticity matters.
In our preference we are saying something about ourselves.