My favorite saying about trust is that it’s gained in drops and lost in buckets. A customer’s trust is methodically formed over long periods of time but can be frayed in an instant. Every impression makes an impression. Each time someone sees your ads or content, or interacts with your brand, it has some sort of personal effect. When done well, every one of these encounters can become a drop in that trust bucket.
How do you make sure everything you create is working to help fill the bucket?
There are many different factors that help build trust, but I’d argue one stands out above them all (and almost everything else ties to it)—authenticity. If people don’t trust that you are who you say you are, everything else is pretty much a wash.
Why authenticity in marketing is a growing challenge
Marketing and customer interactions are increasingly taking place in a fractured online environment. Brands are trying to firmly define themselves in a digital space, across numerous channels, tactics and campaigns. Moreover, different people on your team are often responsible for these channels.
Additionally, rising generations of professionals are more adept at spotting inauthenticity and disingenuity in this digital space. They grew up in this world. Their “BS detectors,” if you will, are finely tuned. In this era, cultivating a truly authentic brand requires intentionality and thoughtfulness in every effort.
From our view, at LinkedIn, embedding authenticity into your marketing requires a commitment to six core traits. Let’s explore what each of these mean, and how you can bring them forth.
1. Consistency. Staying consistent in your messaging, positioning and actions can be difficult.
This is especially true for larger brands that produce a high quantity of content through the voices of various contributors and even different business lines. Yet, consistency is crucial when it comes to developing distinctiveness. To maintain consistency despite a variety of perspectives and distribution channels, it’s vital to create clear central brand guidelines with a broad range of input to drive buy-in.
2. Transparency. Keep your purpose openly at the center of everything you do.
Highlight your employees and give them the freedom to express their personalities. Make it easy for prospective customers to access demos, trials or other materials that provide a clear view of what you offer. Above all, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. No person or brand is perfect, and acknowledging this will only make you more relatable.
3. Integrity. What do you stand for as a brand? What drives you, and how do these convictions show up in your marketing? That’s the determinant of integrity in a nutshell. Interestingly, a secondary definition of integrity is “the state of being whole and undivided,” so it also ties largely to consistency and, even more so, unity.
“As organizations begin to address trust more holistically, marketers can help drive change by shifting the focus to values,” according to Deloitte. Their first step toward enacting trust through a values-based approach lines up with the above: “Enlist everyone.”
4. Honesty. Mistruths are not always malicious or intentionally deceitful. Perhaps you mistakenly exaggerated a claim about a competitor. Maybe you shared a false data point that wasn’t properly vetted, or made a promise you couldn’t keep.
Even outdated product info on your website can be viewed as dishonest, despite being unintended and possibly unnoticed. Take extra care to ensure your marketing communications and brand assets are verifiably accurate. When you err (because we all do), fall back on your transparency and integrity to explain what happened and why it won't happen again.
5. Relevancy. The appetite for growth can sometimes fuel a desire to hit on all the big trends and topics, but spreading your brand too thin will make it less likely to stick with the people you care about most. That’s not to say you should hyper-target or unnecessarily limit the scope of your marketing, but it’s advisable to keep your messaging in line with where your brand and its people specialize.
It’s not just what you’re talking about, or whom you’re talking to, that can impact relevancy, but also where you’re showing up. That’s undoubtedly a big part of the reason companies see noticeable lifts in brand attributes, purchase intent and conversion rates when advertising on LinkedIn. Content is being targeted at relevant segments in an environment conducive to business.
6. Action. When audiences see a brand talking the talk but failing to walk the walk, it's a major red flag. With the transparency of our new digital norm, these disconnects are more likely than ever to get noticed and called out. If you're not backing up your words, your customers will hold you accountable.
Stay true to you in 2022
Every company is a collection of individuals coming together to do great work around a shared passion or mission. Authentic marketing is about letting this shine through to your audience and making them feel like part of your community. Every drop in the bucket counts.