Aimee serves as the CEO and lead visionary at Madison Taylor Marketing. Learn more here.
Think about today’s biggest brands. What have they done differently than everyone else? What is the “it” factor that keeps customers coming back for more?
From time immemorial, businesses have tried to answer these questions. They’ve turned to market metrics, consumer interest surveys and strategic marketing campaigns in an effort to cultivate a loyal customer base and robust brand recognition. However, despite their best efforts, many companies have struggled to find “it” factors of their own. What these companies fail to realize is that the most popular brands are not successful just because of their products and strategies. They’re successful because they’re authentic.
The Rising Importance Of Authenticity In Marketing
In today’s market, authenticity can be the make-or-break factor in a brand’s success. In fact, not only do 90% of customers report that authenticity is an important factor in deciding which brands they like, but Millennials and Gen Z (almost 140 million people) now prefer brands that are “real and organic” as opposed to “perfect” and well-packaged.” To help businesses build an authentic brand, speaker Simon Sinek breaks a brand down into three main questions:
1. What does the company do?
2. How do they do it?
3. Why do they do it?
Most companies understand what they do. They know the products and services they sell. Fewer companies can concretely outline how their value propositions and business processes deliver value to a customer. And only a select few can clearly articulate the ultimate reason why the company exists in the first place. They understand not just what they do or how they do it but why they do it in the first place.
Putting ‘Why’ At The Center
What sets the most successful brands apart is their ability to start with their “why”—to dig deep, identify their ultimate reason for existing and align everything in their business with that purpose. Instead of simply trying to attract customers who will buy their products, successful brands focus on authentically building relationships with customers who have the same values and beliefs as they do. These companies appeal to customers based not on their product offerings but on their core identity and purpose. Successful brands place their “why” at the center of everything they do.
When brands lead with their “why,” they tap into the real magic of marketing and business, reaping improved bottom lines, increased brand awareness and higher levels of consumer satisfaction and trust.
In a 2019 study, researchers found that brand authenticity is connected to self-reinforcing assets, meaning that it can progressively strengthen and increase a company’s competitive advantage with customers. Brand authenticity enables companies to build better customer relationships, promoting brand closeness and encouraging them to make a purchase. The trusting customer relationship formed is iterative and regenerative, so companies reap exponential benefits over time.
Take Patagonia, for instance. Since the company’s inception, the brand has been dedicated to developing quality products that encourage conservation and minimal consumption. In 2022, the brand’s owner announced that 98% of the company’s shares would be donated to a nonprofit trust dedicated to saving the planet. Following this boldly authentic move, customer perceptions of the brand skyrocketed. After learning about the donated shares, 42% of adults who were aware of the brand reported that they would be more likely to purchase Patagonia products in the future.
Crafting A ‘Why’ Statement
Creating a “why” statement requires a company to identify its core purpose for existing—and to do so in a clear, concise and actionable way.
Often, companies can identify several reasons for what they do. The challenge here is homing in on the larger purpose underlying all those reasons. To do this, companies should collaboratively identify and list the reasons behind the brand’s existence. From here, they can work to identify common themes, with the ultimate goal of building a golden thread of purpose that stitches all those reasons together. Once this thread is specified, the company can work to operationalize it by creating a clear, concise and actionable “why.” Remember, “why” statements must inspire people to take action and believe in what they do—employees and customers alike.
Building Authentic Strategies That Embbody The ‘Why’
Once defined and established, a “why” statement should make organizational decisions more straightforward, streamlined and consistent. In effect, “why” statements embody existing corporate DNA. By putting a brand’s core identity into words, companies will find it easier to audit their functions, competencies and processes to ensure alignment with that identity. To do this, brands must ask:
“Does this [process, function, competency, etc.] help support [“why” statement]?”
If the answer is yes, brands can proceed with confidence and authenticity. If the answer is no, or if the “how” behind it is unclear, companies should take time to revise and refine their strategies. The ultimate goal is for everyone in the organization to question how everything—from significant initiatives, like product or service offerings, to smaller items, such as blogs and social media posts—supports the brand’s “why.”
It’s important to remember that companies cannot bend or manipulate their “why” to fit what they do. Everything the brand does must start with “why” and go from there. Simply doing something because competitors are doing it—or because market trends support it—doesn’t bode well for cultivating authenticity. Making exceptions and justifying activities based on competitors or market trends will ultimately dilute the brand.
Brands must intentionally establish strategies and processes rooted in their “why.” By clearly defining the “why” behind what they do—and by questioning how various activities support that core identity—companies can authentically engage in business, building brand consistency and supporting public marketing efforts.
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