5 Secrets to Authentic Branding in an Era of Declining Trust

A generation ago, authenticity perhaps wasn’t a key strategic goal for your typical marketing firm or brand story agency. That’s not because it isn’t important; it’s simply because yesterday’s audience was less wary and more trusting.

Survey after survey shows that Millennials and Generation Z are more skeptical of ads than older demographics. This development is occurring against a backdrop of declining trust in business — the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that 48% of U.S. citizens report having trust in corporations. That’s a relatively steep decline of 10 points since 2017.

Not only are modern audiences more skeptical and less likely to automatically trust, but they are also more sophisticated and discerning. In an age where data is currency, people are beginning to take a closer look at how advertising and marketing work — and who truly benefits. 

The environment makes authenticity essential. Brands and any brand story agency that can connect in a meaningful way have a serious competitive advantage.

With that in mind, let’s review five ways you can authentically brand your company and improve your marketing strategy.

Fearless candor

Remember when Domino’s Pizza essentially admitted their product was awful? In the early 2000s, the pizza chain’s reputation was so toxic that taste testers liked their product less if they were told it came from Domino’s, rather than simply being unbranded.

Domino’s decided to make changes to their pizza and accompany the rollout with a marketing campaign that was basically an extended mea culpa for culinary crimes. This candid and authentic approach was a resounding success; Domino’s market share rose from nine to 16% in five years. The moral of the story? The honesty and candor resonated with consumers, and they ordered much more pizza as a result.

Fine tune your voice

Does your company speak with a unified and distinctive brand voice across all platforms and channels? If not, it’s time to start working with a brand story agency. Your brand voice should be an authentic representation of your brand personality and it should, ideally, be immediately recognizable to your audience.

What’s the best way to create an authentic brand voice? Fine-tune your language. All of your brand language should reflect your brand messaging, attributes etc. It should also be relatable, fresh and up to date.

What it shouldn’t do, however, is attempt to mimic popular slang phrases or idioms. That kind of thing needs to be executed perfectly, otherwise, you’ll fall into the all too familiar category “corporation tries to be hip and fails spectacularly.” That’s about as inauthentic as it gets in the eyes of modern audiences.

Reach for a higher purpose

Consumers may be wary about marketing, but they appreciate uplift and storytelling. Look no further than Nike’s advertising campaigns, which typically do a masterful job of highlighting the triumph of the human spirit over often-incredible odds.

When an audience watches Rohan Murphy (a wrestler who managed to compete at the highest collegiate level despite having no legs) in a Nike ad, some of the awe and goodwill they experience is transferred to the brand.  Being exposed to a narrative like this can create a deeply human and authentic connection, as the ad creates a powerful emotional response in the viewer.

Forge a two-way connection

Great storytelling doesn’t have to be a one-way street. In fact, by encouraging your audience to share their own stories with your brand, you can forge an even deeper and more authentic connection.

Social media is the ideal avenue for a two-way campaign. Invite your audience to share photos or stories on Instagram, and engage them in meaningful conversations about their content.

Don’t behave like a brand; Act like a person

Let’s face it: Brands are never going to fully transcend the inherent skepticism audience’s hold. So why act like a brand?

If you want to achieve authenticity, don’t be afraid to let the corporate mask drop. Show the occasional misstep or hiccup. Work with a brand story agency to create interesting, fresh and human stories to share. Drop the pose of corporate Olympian detachment, and let your audience know that your brand is really a collection of people: Imperfect, yes, but also human and deeply authentic.

Reach out to our human team and begin to authenticate your brand story.

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