How People Judge Your Authenticity

Written by Team Edgar

On May 3, 2016

According to a recent study, your brand is a lot like the old family heirlooms you see getting appraised on Antiques Roadshow – it’s only valuable if it’s authentic.

Antiques Roadshow 2

(That, and it deserves better than gathering cobwebs in the attic.)

But what IS authenticity? How do you measure it? How do you show it?

How People Judge Your Authenticity

Global communications and PR firm Cohn & Wolfe surveyed 12,000 consumers around the world to find out – and the results weren’t all pretty.

For starters, only 25% of consumers think that brands can be trusted.

(Not a fun thing to hear about yourself, huh?)

What can you do about it, though? How do you give people more faith in your authenticity? You can see some more stats in the Authentic 100 report here, but we’re breaking down some of the highlights to get you started:

Why consumers have trust issues

So people don’t trust brands – but what does that MEAN?

That they think you’re overcharging them?

That they’re worried you’ll lose their credit card information to hackers?

That they wouldn’t ask you to watch their cocker spaniel for the afternoon?

Mistrust comes from a disconnect between what you say and what you do.

A whopping 78% of people think that in general, brands are NOT open and honest. In fact, only 1 in 4 people thinks that brands actually do what they say they’re going to do – a level of mistrust typically reserved for badly behaved toddlers and black market organ dealers.

This doesn’t mean you or your business have necessarily made people feel misled – but it means you still have to work a lot harder to make up for the damaged caused by brands in general.

The bright side? Showing your authenticity can really pay off.

Because consumers tend to be so skeptical of brands, when one does come across as authentic, people gravitate toward it. (You might not be surprised to see names like Disney, Apple, and LEGO near the top of this study’s list for perceived authenticity.)

Nearly 9 out of 10 people will reward a brand for its authenticity by doing things like recommending it to others, or remaining loyal over time.

Basically, being perceived as authentic can make a huge impact on your bottom line. If you’re not authentic, you’re just another business that’ll do anything to make a buck.

With that in mind, it’s important not only to actually BE authentic, but to SHOW that you’re authentic.

But how do you do that, exactly? What traits do consumers associate with authenticity?

Three signs of an authentic brand

The Authentic 100 study asked its participants what exactly they mean when they describe a brand as “authentic,” and came back with three clear winners.

First, be reliable.

This is the most important thing that consumers look for – a brand that delivers on its promises. It does the thing it says it’s going to do, and it does it well.

(It’s also a reason why you have to be careful about what kinds of promises you make – present yourself the wrong way, and you make it easy to permanently lose someone’s trust.)

Darcy Good Opinion

Second, be respectful.

This isn’t as simple as minding your manners and choosing the right fork in a fancy restaurant. (Okay, that second thing is actually kind of tricky, but still.)

Respect is about how you treat people – not just your tone. It’s a matter of treating them the way you’d want to be treated, whether that’s responding in a crisis, making it easy to opt out of a newsletter, or just plain protecting their data. Show someone that they matter, and you show them respect.

Third, be real.

When it comes to this type of authenticity, you can’t just keep it real with what you say – you have to keep it real with what you do.

And what does that kind of realness look like, exactly?

Clueless Murray Keepin It Real

Keeping it real with what you say means communicating openly and honestly with people.

It means telling it like it is, whether you’re explaining your policies, sharing what you learned from doing something wrong, or even just breaking down something complex in a way that’s easy to follow.

Keeping it real with what you do, on the other hand, means conducting business with integrity. It means having principles, and not pretending to be something you’re not. It means knowing your limits, and working within them.

This is actually the type of honesty consumers appreciate most. According to Cohn & Wolfe’s study, people care more about how you treat them than what you say your beliefs are – in other terms, actions speak louder than words.

What this means for you

You can pore over all the statistics in the Authentic 100 report, but there’s one major theme that runs through all the facts and figures:

The best way to show your authenticity is to be honest.

Be honest about what your brand can do for people. Respect them enough to tell the truth, and be honest to yourself by sticking to your principles.

The more you try to be something you’re not – be it through what you say or what you do – the easier it is for your authenticity to slip away. The more you stay true to yourself and focus on doing right by your audience, the better off you’ll be!

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