Most brands focus on authenticity when developing their image and positioning. Regardless of a product and country, consumers lean towards goods which are genuine and real, safe and pure. The word “authentic” derives from Ancient Greek αὐθεντικός (authentikόs, “principal, genuine”), and so the brands strive to demonstrate the uniqueness of their products by creating secret recipes, focusing on the organic background and traditional values or proving that the product is what it is says about itself.
There are three major channels to translate the brand’s authenticity:
Logos and atmosphere. One of the core values of any brand is its strong tie to the heritage, so constant references to the brand’s history and the role it plays in people’s life can contribute to the brand’s authetic image. For instance, being the first jeanswear brand in the world, Levi’s is the very epitome of an authentic American brand, and strengthens this image with an old-fashioned logo on the waistband and the unique broad “V” stitching on the pocket.
Branded visual elements are one of the most precious things the brand has, that’s why companies change their logos only after a thorough consideration. Starbucks, which has been featuring a serene on its logo for decades—though, the company has revamped the logo a lot, it is still loyal to the fictional lady.
Coca-Cola’s logo has also evolved a lot over 126 years, but it would be still recognizable to people of 1900’s if they had traveled in time and jumped into 2012. When it comes to restaurant chains (Starbucks, Burger King, Subway) or international companies with a wide range of consumer brands (Nike, Coca-Cola, Unilever), it’s extremely hard to preserve a consistent approach and look for all the locations and products, and to be honest this is not needed—the most important thing here is to preserve the atmosphere and make sure that the feel is the same (to the extent possible).
Big bosses from the companies also should be faces of their brands—who would believe you are selling something worth having, if you don’t use it? Muhtar Kent should always drink Coca-Cola and Honda CEO’s Takanobu Ito is expected to drive Civic—this would emphasize the quality and realness of their products. Steve Jobs was one of those, who make the products they create part of their own life. Could you imagine Jobs with a Samsung tablet? No. Has Apple become more authentic thanks to such a great dedication of its late boss? No doubt.
Photo: McDonald’s In China (emergingmoney.com), McDonald’s in France (theplanetd.com), click to enlarge
Packaging and Design. Authenticity is always associated with naturalness and organic origin, so food brands, which position their products as authentic, always emphasize the realness of the product, choosing cardboard background, transparent elements, warm colours, simple patterns and clear or sometimes retro type. By this, manufacturers want to emphasize the message that the product is more important than the packaging, and is used to highlight, not replace it. Plain and neat packaging evokes the image of handmade things, artisan food, just backed bread from the local bakery and smell of home.
Photo: The Spice Tailor range designed by Pearlfisher
Promotion. One of the core things in promoting an authentic brand is integrity of the message and the actions of the brand. What it does should comply with what it communicates—otherwise the authenticity will be at risk. Nivea, which is pushing the ‘everyone is beautiful’ message, would lose a lot if sponsored fashion events with skinny models, and KitKat would be much less popular if started promoting big meals and family dinners. In one of its recent campaigns, Honest Tea, which name also mirrors the brand’s dedication to organic products, demonstrated the “Nature Got It Right. We Put It in a Bottle” authentic approach through a humorous animated spot in which artificial ingredients just can’t get inside the bottle.
The company also has a great statement: “We will never claim to be a perfect company, but we will address difficult issues and strive to be honest about our ability or inability to resolve them.” This is a great example of how to be open and honest with consumers, showing them that you are not ideal, but trying hard to be the best.
Very often, to highlight its authenticity, brands indicate locations the products come from (these geographical names can be fake as well). For instance, Starbucks often writes the origin of some of its blends on the packs, such as on the Starbucks Reserve Organic Galápagos or Starbucks Dark Sumatra packaging, and a range of Russian food manufacturers mention location in the name of the product—“Shebekinskiye Macarony” (Pasta from Shebekino, a town in Russia), dairy brand “Prostokvashino” (the name of a village from a popular children’s book—the name is originally based on the word “prostokvasha”, soured milk) or even Stolichnaya (from “stolitza”, “a capital”).
By indicating a location or a person behind the brand, the manufacturer makes it real, belonging to some place or some person—McDonald’s, Levi’s, Wendy’s, Macy’s, Dewar’s, which got their names after their owners (or the owners’ relatives), are just a few of them. For instance, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey used both approaches, the indication of the location and the name at the same time.
Every authentic brand should also have a legend behind it, a clear story and start from it. The more trustful it is, the more it resonates with the target audience, the more authentic the brand becomes (the recent animated video dedicated to LEGO’s 80th anniversary pulls on heartstrings in a great way).
This story can be true (like it is with Guinness, which hosts annual Arthur’s Day celebrations) or fake (created just for the brand’s campaign), and the more realistic and old it is, the better.
Five ways to strengthen authenticity of your brand:
1. Be as open as you can. Reveal recipes, tell more about technologies, give a deeper insight into the production process. Don’t be afraid of disclosing all secrets and getting bare in front of the competitors—your craftsmanship and skills remain with you.
2. Demonstrate that you really can implement the environmental, social, employment plans you declare. List technologies which are to help you reach the goal, unveil a step-by-step plan, report on achievements. It’s not boasting, by this you just testify you can keep your word.
3. Don’t be afraid of expanding your horizons. Don’t be afraid of expanding your horizons. Any global authentic brand starts from a local ground. And while expanding can affect authenticity, brand can still preserve its genuine image while adding new elements and responding to consumer demands. Just do it right and remember about traditions and core values of your brand. Levi’s, which used to manufacture jeans for laborers, has unveiled the Levi’s Curve ID system, ex-girlfriend jeans and offers a wide range of collaborative products. Here, expanding means taking more responsibilities, setting larger goals, digging deep, in fact it’s great, but be sure you still keep by the core of the brand.
4. Give your brand a human face. Connect it with a person, its CEO or the one behind the brand. Highlight the brand’s importance to the target audience and make it essential for them, no matter how hard this might be. Try to engage the target audience with developing something for the brand, live the life of your consumers.
5. Serve a large positive purpose. Build a world you would like to live in. If your positive image is artificial and just for attracting more consumers, people will notice it very quickly. It’s just like smiling—if you fake it, there’s no energy, and the connection fades within seconds. Be truly resourceful and giving. If you run a bakery, make the healthiest bread in the city. Make people sense you wish them good, not just tell this.