I stumbled across a question posed on LinkedIn this morning that got me thinking. The question was: How do you see social platforms evolving in the future? And while I answered it from a personal standpoint, I neglected the answer from a brand authenticity perspective – an oversight I aim to correct here.
Social Media is evolving every day, and more and more, businesses that aren’t engaging with their customers in social media are missing out on a vital and critical method for creating their brand image and maintaining their customer’s connection to them. The future holds increasing business interactions in and on social platforms. In today’s world of ongoing corporate scandals, we rightly distrust “companies.” And at the end of the day, while we might do business with some of the companies we distrust – because we have to, we don’t enjoy it.
On the other hand, there are a handful of businesses that I’m an evangelist for. I LOVE these companies. I go out of my way to do business with them. Why? Because there is something about the firm I identify with: their brand and their authenticity. I enjoy spending time with these companies. These companies are exactly what I expect in every interaction I’ve observed them in both in person, online, and in the world of social media. What these companies provide is a level of transparency that is remarkable in the age of spin and closely guarded brand positioning. They are authentically themselves. A few of the companies that leap to mind for me on this count are Bare Escentuals Cosmetics, Teavana, and Lille Belle Farms-Hand Made Chocolates. If you’re not familiar with these companies, you should be.
Brand Authenticity Examples
What I love about them is that they have found, and regularly use, their brand authenticity through their voice. Bare Escentuals Cosmetics is candid, honest, and straightforward, I’ve been a fan for years, but their interactions in the world of social media have solidified their position in my mind. The bottom line is that there is nothing funny going there. If Bare Escentuals says something is — it is, I can count on it. And while they focus on all things makeup/skincare related, they stick to what they know and are an informational resource on it. I don’t turn to Bare Escentuals to find out what I tea I might like, but you’d better believe that it’s one of the first places I’ll go if I’ve got a question on skin care or just need a new color of makeup.
Teavana, on the other hand, has an easy/breezy personality. They create a great tea. Now here’s the tough part this is a company that sells tea, how do you sell it on the internet? After all, tea is about taste, smell, sensation, and created moments. That’s a tough sell on the web. But they do it by taking care to describe actively what the tea is about, remembering the emotional space it will be consumed in. And they create a vibrant forum where real individuals have the opportunity to discuss their product. They create an active interaction with their fans and when I’m looking for a special place to be – I’ll check out what they’ve got going on (and more often than I’d care to mention, enjoy the tea they’re describing despite living 281 miles away from the nearest Teavana store.)
Now, the first two companies I mentioned are admittedly national brands that have entire departments focused on maintaining their social media. But having an entire staff focused on the maintenance of social media isn’t necessary, finding and living your brand authenticity is. Lille Belle Farms-Hand Made Chocolates is a prime example of that. Lille Belle Farms is a small boutique chocolatier located in Central Point, Oregon. What makes this chocolate shop special is the owner and chocolatier, Jeff Shepherd. He’s insanely comfortable in his skin, and when you interact with his shop on Facebook, you’ll see he makes no apologies for what he is. In fact, in a recent post, which I loved, he said:
“Note from management: We always have a “Chocolate of the Day” in the store..I just dont always post it because I am an overworked spaced out hippie.BUT.new policy, if you are a fan of us on FB and you come into the store–the chocolate of the day..whether I remember to post it or not is free. Cool?”
It just doesn’t get any more authentic than that. And authentic sells. The fact that his chocolate is beyond belief is just a bonus. (You can order it online if you’re so inclined, and if you’re ever in the neighborhood stop by.)
Where’s the Brand Authenticity Lesson?
So where’s the lesson in brand authenticity in all of this? It’s about finding your authentic voice and unabashedly living it. Decide what you stand for – and stand for it – have a personality – be yourself, unapologetically! Your job in creating a brand is to find a way to create space and stand for something. This will allow you to connect with your customers in the world and social media. If you are successful in presenting your authentic voice – your business will grow. It is my firm belief that consumers in America today are looking for honesty – refreshing honesty. There’s no better place, to be honest than when you’re talking about what your company stands for. That, more than any slick advertisement will win you a loyal following of customers. So if your brand isn’t yet about exactly who and what you stand for, it’s time to take a hard look and to make a change. Then, go out and live your brand, and consider taking the necessary step into social media.
Question for the readers: What brands do you LOVE because they are authentic? Please share your favorite examples of brand authenticity in comments.