The world has become woke. There are no two ways about it. In the age of the #MeToo movement and #BlackLivesMatter, people are more socially and politically conscious than ever. While some of us are marching in the street, and others are taking to social media to air our views, millions of people are using something even more powerful to make their voices heard: their wallets.
A huge amount of research has been done over the last few years when it comes to authentic branding and how businesses can benefit from it. For decades we were encouraged to not talk about politics or other issues that make people uncomfortable.
But today, things are changing rapidly. Now it seems if your business doesn’t take a stand on what’s going on in the world—or worse, takes the wrong stand—it’s going to affect you where it hurts most: your bottom line.
Consumers, authenticity, and brand loyalty
How important is authenticity to your consumers? Consider these numbers:
- 86% of consumers say authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support.
- 81% of consumers say they need to be able to trust the brand in order to buy from them.
- 66% of consumers think transparency is one of the most attractive qualities in a brand.
- Most consumers want brands to take a stand on social or political issues. In fact, nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world say they would buy from a brand or boycott it solely because of its position on a social or political issue.
- 77% of consumers buy from brands that share the same values as they do.
So, how do you create a business that speaks to your target market, and makes them feel something? How do you develop an authentic brand voice and nurture brand loyalty?
tips to develop your authentic brand voice
1. Find out what fires up your customers
This seems obvious. Business 101 will tell you that you have to know who your ideal client is. But it’s no longer enough to know the usual demographics, such as gender, age, income, and pain points. Today, you need to know what they believe in. What they stand for. What gets them fired up.
If your brand can stand for those things as well, guess what is going to be firing up your target market? YOU. So, it’s vital that you know whom you’re talking to. The best way to do this is to listen—to really listen, and listen deeply. Find your ideal client on social media and observe their conversations. Find the podcasts they’re listening to, and listen to those. This step requires investigation and research.
2. To develop an authentic brand voice, take a stand
How do you want your target market to see you? The way they see themselves: Active. Engaged. Taking a stand on things that they believe in. Now, this is a tough one, because you’re running a business and you don’t want to get too political, obviously.
So, instead of being “anti,” be “pro.” Here’s an example: I am not a fan of the Kardashians. I’m not into the vibes of flowing locks and big eyes and flawless faces and tiny waistlines and ridiculous pouts. This is mainly because I am always in baggy clothes with coffee spilled down my front and I probably haven’t combed my hair since the day before yesterday.
I am a fan, however, of Beyoncé and Cate Blanchett and Oprah Winfrey and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. These are the women I talk about. These are the women I reference in my socials and my marketing. I want my target market to see me as a giant feminist, who rocks at language and is pretty cool to work with. I want people to think about me and say, “Ashleigh is pretty awesome. Needs a hairbrush, but pretty awesome.”
How do you want your people to see you? Go and be that thing. Are you a feminist who doesn’t wear a bra and tells her 10-year-old nephew that pink is his signature color while you help him paint his nails?
Be you. Why? Because “the best brands are honest representations of the businesses behind them.” Those are not my words. They’re the words of this person. I wish they were my words. But it’s okay. I have my own words, which are pretty fly, too.
3. Weave your beliefs into your branding
When you hire your copywriter, your web designer, your graphic designer, anyone … tell them what you stand for. Tell them that this has to be evident in your branding.
Your target market wants to see this. It establishes trust. It shows them that your business is human. Ethical. It has beliefs. This is what people connect with. It’s what makes them feel loyal to you.
Now, it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s going to be too much for some people—and that’s okay. Those are not your people. The sooner you make peace with that, the sooner your business will fly because it is speaking to the people that you want to resonate with. This is marketing gold.
4. Live and breathe your values in the office
It’s not only customers and clients who want businesses and brands to stand for something. Employees are increasingly concerned not only with the values companies espouse, but with whether they live and breathe them in practice—not just in terms of how they behave externally, but how they treat their staff.
According to a survey by Hibob, 69% of people will reconsider a job offer if the company culture seems toxic. In the interview process, people specifically look for signs of a high staff turnover, or signs of burnout in staff members. In addition, 77% felt that company culture is extremely important, and 56% ranked opportunities for growth as more important than salary.
A 2019 report from Glassdoor found that over 77% of adults across the United States, UK, France, and Germany would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there, and 79% would consider a company’s mission and purpose. More than half of those polled said that company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.
Your values are your business’s lifeblood. Your values inform everything. So, it’s vital that your brand is seen to be living them and that your authentic brand voice shows this.
5. Don’t hide your beliefs under a rock
When you start to put this voice out into the world, you’re making a promise to your audience and your employees. You’re telling them who you are. You’re inviting them to build a relationship with you based on a very specific set of expectations. It’s important that you live up to them.
Don’t be afraid to communicate this promise. What good are your beliefs if they’re kept in the dark?
This is where your authentic voice and branding come into play. It can be scary. We’re told in life that we mustn’t be too much of one thing or another. We mustn’t be too loud. Too divisive. Too vocal. We must fit a mold.
Your potential consumers and employees don’t want that. They’re looking for your authentic brand voice. Put yours out there consistently in your content, your branding, and all your messaging.
Your authentic brand voice helps people “feel”
There are people out there who hold beliefs that are incredibly important to them. They are waiting for a business just like yours that reflects those beliefs back at them.
Maybe you’re a feminist who believes in uplifting women—talk about that. Maybe you’re someone who wants to advocate for children’s rights—tell your content manager to curate pieces that reflect that. Perhaps you’re an imperfect ally who is exploring their privilege and what that means in the world—write a blog about it.
We’re in an age when authentic branding sparks empathy and feeling and heart. When people feel, they’re much more likely to buy. That’s a marketing principle as old as time itself. That’s how you grow your business—and yourself.