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Brand Authenticity - Let’s Be Honest

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Brand Authenticity - Let’s Be Honest

By Natalia Ashton-Togher

By now you’ve probably heard people talking about ‘authentic content’ or how a brand is ‘authentic’, but what does it actually mean? Why is it suddenly so important? How do we differentiate between who is being authentic and who isn’t?

The best place to start is to define what it means. Authenticity is really a philosophical concept around how your values shape the way you live. It's the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit or character, despite external pressures.

Starting here, we can see how this could be applied to brands and their content. Does a company operate based upon a set of values? And, more importantly, is it happy to lose or reduce profit if it would mean compromising these values? The strongest brands are built up from their company values, which are reflected in everything they do and every piece of their communication.

So, if a brand is true to its values and believes in what it does, it's easy to create authentic content because it's just being honest. A great example of this is the Domino's Instagram account. Take a look - it's not exactly pretty but it is honest. There are some real food photography faux pas in there; pools of lukewarm buffalo sauce and using a flash to photograph a pizza. Not a professional photographer or stylist in sight.

However unappealing this might look at first glance, if you start to look at their competitors' feeds, you can easily see why this honesty-first approach is setting them apart, with notably more likes on each post. Take a look at Pizza Hut's feed and you’ll be treated to a dog in a branded hat, unrealistically happy people sampling their unrealistic takeaway pizza or just a straight up, perfectly-shot advert.

People are engaging more with Dominos because it's honest, they can relate to these images and they know that because there isn’t any Photoshop editing, the brand is proud of what it produces. When the customer has so much choice available to them, why would they believe your product is worth their money if you don’t even believe in it?

This starts to explain why brand authenticity is becoming more and more important. At a time when customers have access to so much information and choice, surely the easiest way to stand out is to be honest.

And when it comes to being a creative, I think the best work you can produce is when you truly believe in what you're doing. If a client has honest values and believes in what it's trying to do, it will always convince you and then you will always strive that little bit harder to do something that will make a difference.

It comes back to a basic
truth of advertising -
the truth well told.

I’ll leave you with another example of how brand authenticity can drive success.

Cycling apparel brand, Rapha, asked photographer Laura Austin to not only shoot its Women’s 100 event, but to also ride in it and document her experience for an Instagram takeover. Rapha believes in the joy of cycling and knew that the photos of someone taking part and going through the experience themselves, would resonate with people far more than photos shot from a van alongside the cyclists.

As a brand, Rapha wanted to share the truth of what a ride like this was like and how a cyclist looks at a journey; how it becomes a playground, with every road and hill becoming an obstacle to overcome. On her blog post about the shoot, Austin said: “I’m hooked. Since the ride, at least a few times a week I wake up early and start my day off with a bike ride”.

It just goes to show that if you believe in what you're doing, you'll convince the creative involved, and once they're convinced, they'll do everything they can to make work that will communicate what they now believe in.