Are you for real? Brand authenticity in a fake news culture

Ninety percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support, notes the U.S. Polo Assn.'s Stacey Kovalsky.

Are you for real? Brand authenticity in a fake news culture

Authenticity is the quality of having authority for truth, correctness and genuineness. A younger generation might say it means your brand is bona fide or legit.

Trust in traditional and social media has eroded due to fake news, misinformation, conspiracy theories and propaganda, fueled by a digital, 24/7 news cycle. Most of us receive daily a deluge of disinformation, lacking authenticity.

Consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, are tired of faceless, impersonal companies, or worse yet, companies who are telling untruthful or disingenuous stories. Not only will they turn their backs on companies who are "full of it," but they'll research the heck out of a company and prove its lack of authenticity. And they'll spread the word through social media, all in about 10 seconds.

According to a Stackla data report, 90% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support. So how do marketers gain trust and brand loyalty through authenticity?

Here are five key markers that consumers use to gage authenticity:

Originality
Is the brand or product new, innovative and different to the market?

Declared beliefs
Does the brand stand for more than just making money? Does it help the community or extend efforts toward a greater good?

Sincerity
Does the brand try hard not to let people down? What is its customer service ranking? Does the brand step up when something goes wrong with its product?

Momentum
Does the brand have an aura of becoming more popular, being or creating a trend?

Heritage
What extent does the brand carry a relevant and engaging story?

If you have many of these characteristics, you're in good shape. If you have one or none, take a close look at where you can improve. I have been with companies who drank their own Kool-Aid, claiming to be the best, an industry leader or the most original. You can declare these things in marketing or PR campaigns but that doesn't make them true.

As a communicator, you must tell your story in a way that enables every employee, partner and satisfied consumer to tell your story, too. If you don't tell your story, they won't either.

Stacey Kovalsky is senior director of global communications for the U.S. Polo Assn., the official brand of the United States Polo Association.

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