Brand authenticity…an emerging trend for 2016

Earlier this week I received a personalised email from Keith Hanshaw and Uncle Steven Hanshaw, two master craftsmen. As an existing customer of theirs, they were letting me know that it’s been 50-years since Uncle Steven set up The Leather Satchel Co., a family-run business that creates satchels based on the traditional style of Oxford and Cambridge schools. It brought to life how this was precisely the story that I’d bought into a few months back. I had been hampering after a leather satchel for quite some time and had really done my research, reading through many a blog review and watching a ton of YouTube ‘un-boxing’ videos (yes, I know!). Ultimately it was the authenticity of The Leather Satchel Co. that grabbed me, and this is a growing trend. As their email stated, “deep down we all know you just can’t beat 50-years of experience”.

It’s this kind of provenance that really matters to customers, on an increasing basis. People are attracted to brands that are true to their origins and values. Julie Napoli, a marketing professor at Curtin University, recently reported in The Journal of Business Research that consumers see three dimensions to brand authenticity: heritage, sincerity and commitment to quality. These are fuzzy things to measure, but increasingly, customers want to buy into something more than just a logo. They want their purchase to tell a story, be handcrafted, or represent some eco or social conscience, and are willing to pay a premium for this. This has been the thinking behind the Selfish Mother brand, which in addition to being a blogzine and an online community, sells t-shirts and sweatshirts designed specifically for hard-working mums, with all profits (approx £15 per sweatshirt sale) going directly to women’s charities. So far over £100,000 has been raised through sales, for causes including Women for Women International, The Refugee Council UK, KIDS, and Help Refugees UK. It’s easy to see why so many mums, high-profile celebrities included, have bought into the concept and products. Furthermore, Selfish Mother has a thriving social media community with 25,000 followers, which does a good job of sharing images from its ‘sisterhood’. It’s a no-brainer why such ‘philanthropreneur’ businesses are doing so well currently, as they tap directly into the consumer appetite for authenticity. The world of craft beer is another booming market where authenticity is rife. For millennials particularly, the growing breed of microbrewers tick a lot of authentic boxes, using traditional brewing methods, being eco-friendly in their production, and often using locally sourced ingredients. Brewdog is one such brand (coincidentally featured this week in a BBC series, ‘Who’s the Boss’), which oozes genuine passion for great craft beer. Set-up by two friends in 2007, the business began small, brewing in tiny batches, filling bottles by hand and selling at local markets and out of the back of a beat up old van. Today it’s global with 44 bars across the world, crowdfunded by 32,000, employing 540+ people and producing 134,000HL of beer. Although it’s exploded in size, its out-there branding, quirky beer names and eco approach still screams authenticity to its customers. It’s easy to see why brand authenticity is in such high demand, and particularly it seems the more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine. Globally, 30% of millennials say they are cynical about the way that brands market to them (and it’s above 40% in the UK and US). 91% of consumers rate honest communication about products and services as the most important criterion for company behaviour, while trustworthiness and authenticity are two of the top five attributes listed by millennials for brand marketing. A Cohn & Wolf study similarly found that 63% of consumers surveyed across 12 global markets would buy from a company they consider to be authentic over and above its competitors. Moreover, six in 10 would recommend an authentic organisation to family and friends. This is a trend which isn’t going away, but the problem is that as the demand for authenticity grows, the number of brands with quirky, provenance stories to tell will escalate, and it will be harder to differentiate. Likewise consumers will become cynical and likely to lose heart. Furthermore, using advertising to project an image of authenticity is difficult because methods of mass marketing are believed to undermine such claims. As Dr Bob Cook, inspiration and innovation director at Firefish, says: “brands cannot fake, borrow or buy authenticity and if you truly are authentic, you shouldn’t have to say so”. So here are some words of wisdom on how to build an authentic brand, offered up by Marketing WeekRules of Authenticity

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