Do your brand values come from a strategic decision, or an organic statement of who you are and what you do? More and more, social media is proving that it should be the latter. The slippery impression of authenticity has a huge impact on how your target market and customers think of you. That’s why it’s time to ground your brand.
An Authentic Buzzword
I was at the Financial Times Future of Marketing event in New York City yesterday, where I got to hear many brands and agencies talk about various aspects of the future and present of marketing.
Anyone who’s been to a conference knows they’re the places buzzwords hatch, grow up and breed. And the buzzword I heard most yesterday was “authenticity.”
And the best articulation of it was the need to “ground your brand.”
“Every company right now, the one takeaway is ‘ground your brand’,” said Suzy Deering, CMO North America, eBay. “If you can’t stand for who you are; not change who you are but evolve who you are,” it’s going to show.”
(Note: I took these quotes live, so please forgive any slight discrepancies with other outlets.)
“I think we’ve absolutely bathed ourselves in complexity and acronyms for years,” said Hannah Grove, EVP and CMO of Boston-based financial services holding company State Street. “At State Street, we’ve really tried to break down the acronyms and just communicate.”
“We have to force ourselves as marketers to come back to the human question,” said Eric Reynolds, CMO, Clorox. This dictum forces Clorox to look at consumers not as consumers, but as people, which helps Reynolds and his team think of about what resonates with them as people.
How to Ground Your Brand
“Authenticity is a word people throw around that is very. Very hard to get right,” said Carter Murray, CEO of FCB.” And the thing about Social Media is you have to be true to who you are and what yo do, or you absolutely get eaten alive on social media.”
That’s where the usual discussion of authenticity and grounding your brand diverge. The key is getting down to the values and beliefs that are core to who you are as a company, and lining behind them.
It’s always the same question: “What business are we in, and what do we do every single day that is important?,” said Murray.
Murray was presenting with Reynolds, and spoke about the many companies, following the lead of successful mission-driven organizations like Tom’s Shoes, launch into their own missions. But those missions don’t always resonate.
“I see people trying to invent meaning,” said Reynolds, “and if we’re not careful, more and more consumers will say, ‘Are those the values I really share? Are they just saying what they think I want them to say?’”