Let’s take a second to imagine….
Imagine a person (let’s call them Avery) that is 100% themselves and nothing less.
Avery does a lot of *insert cool, sustainable, earth-loving hobby here* (without rubbing in other’s faces that they’re morally superior).
They’re always welcoming with a warm ear to listen.
They understand they are not perfect and are willing to make strides to improve themselves.
I like to think some of the most authentic brands have this vibe. Like our precariously unique friend, some brands have uncovered the secrets to authenticity and unlocked the doors of customer trust. This is done by adding humanity back into the picture.
Kindness is a Lifestyle. Not a Trend.
Our friend, Avery, volunteers regularly and lends a hand to their loved ones whenever they can. Not just on important events or major holidays. Recognizing the needs of others comes instinctually.
Honest brands do work with their impact in mind. When you walk down an aisle at a grocery store, there are certain labels that make you feel better about your choice like “B-corp” or “Fair Trade”. Brands have to undergo strict requirements to meet these standards. It’s not just a 1-cent donation on every purchase for a month.
Brands that pursue these certifications continuously pour heart, soul, and committed dedication into making their ethical dreams reality. On the other hand, not only is the company doing good, but the consumer can support a brand that aligns with their values.
Environmental, social, governance (ESG) is not a phase or a one-off event. It’s a humble and constant climb towards better. Like the section title says: kindness is a lifestyle.
Brands that do this well:
- One Tribe Apparel – Their startup story is beautiful and heartfelt. For each purchase, One Tribe donates a dollar toward supporting The Elephant Nature Park. (Not just one pair of limited-edition elephant pants, but every purchase.)
- REI – The fact you can join their co-op makes you a face for the company and intentionally connects you to the brand community. The outdoor community is known for members looking out for each other. This quality is especially prevalent through REI’s rental and used gear programs. Saving the planet and making adventures more affordable.
When you’re upset, Avery is tuned in. They know how much space to give and when to react. When they listen, they immerse themselves in the words and body language… reaching one step closer to understanding another’s perspective.
Listening is a hard-earned skill, and it has to be constantly adapted to each person. People and their emotions exist in 4-D. If everyone is a point in space, you never get the full perspective of what someone else sees. You can only view it from your standpoint… which can be a good thing. Different vantage points allow for insights others may miss. It’s important for people to share through the give and take of communication.
It’s the same for brands.
A brand’s individual customers have their own unique viewpoints. Brands that recognize that can grow beyond themselves. So, authentic brands must give people platforms to be heard. “In today’s wired world, the most authentic marketing tactic is to actually do something about customer feedback” (Weinberger, hbr.org). Whether that’s through an easy-to-use, highly responsive “Contact Us” page, very well-versed customer reps, or website chat boxes, providing a platform for customers to be heard is important. To sharpen the point, consider this: according to the American Marketing Association, 68% of consumers say they “feel more confident about brands that they can message” (Zeng, ama.org).
… But we don’t need statistics to know that people need to be heard. You already know deep down that being truly heard can be uplifting for everyone.
Brands that listen well:
- Amazon – (Pushing the big business perspective off to the side for now) How many things have you returned to Amazon in the past year? Probably more than any other store. They’ve worked hard to hone their process to make sure returns are streamlined, so you get what you need done without a compilation of phone calls, email chains, and strongly worded letters that shout into the void.
- Mentionlytics – Their chatbox function is very simple and connects you with product professionals quickly and easily. Then, they give you full email copies of your conversation for future reference. Unlike other businesses in their space, their free trial allows you hands-on experience, so you can judge the platform from your perspective, not a sales rep walking you through theirs.
Imperfection is ingrained into our nature. Avery knows this and will proudly preach this to anyone that asks. Humans learn from their quirks and differences. Although difficult, Avery works hard to gracefully hear out criticism. These practices can help them become more conscious of the world and the people in it.
As marketers, we can get the urge to appear immaculately branded. This perfectionism is what makes brands appear cold and robotic (in their negative connotations).
Now, what I am not saying is to run around making purposeful mistakes and heroically apologizing for them (although if they do happen, amends are required). I’m talking about making brands approachable. They speak your language, honestly and relatably.
One tricky, yet rewarding form of brand communication is through comedy. Campaign UK has an insightful article on the trials and perks of this campaign style (noting randomness as their comedy of choice).
Drawing back, humanity is what makes the brands real and whole. It makes you feel more at ease when you know your money is going to people, instead of a faceless corporation.
Brands that do “human” well:
- Apple Genius Bar – The Apple Genius Bar, particularly in the Apple Store, connects you with people just like you (but with more technical knowledge). The genius bar puts a face to Apple and makes the brand responsible for their products’ user friendliness, glitches, etc.
- Rocketbook – Rocketbook has a product that could easily be bland as, well, blank paper. But they add their own nerdy personality to all business communication. The brand, also, seems fueled by customer comments and reviews. In fact, this blog post highlights the authentically humorous nature of the brand.
As people, we strive to achieve our goals individually.
When we work together, we fill in the natural imperfections in each other. Making a more whole, better entity as a whole. An entity that strives for genuine authenticity, like our friend, Avery.
Brands can be an amalgamation of the brightest attributes of the people running them. If we do this, authenticity is uncovered and it can be fostered into a beautiful, collaborative business.
And who knows? With a bit of love, thoughtfulness, and dedication, we think you can build A–very authentic brand. 😊