It used to be that sleek designs and creative packaging were enough for consumers to maintain brand loyalty. But, not anymore!
According to the 6th Edition of Salesforce’s State of Marketing Report, 84% of customers admitted that the experience a company provides is just as important as its products and services, pointing to the fact that building brand trust is important now more than ever. If you don’t believe me, then look no further than Aunt Jemima and her famous pancake mix.
Company responses regarding COVID-19 and racism, have placed many producers of the brands we love under a microscope. It’s one of the many things, in addition to the drastic changes we have all experienced, that has caused many of us to take a step back and redefine what matters most. Indeed, it has caused many to reconsider how we want our life to look, not only in the present, but also beyond the pandemic.
A recent study by Ketchum, a global communications consultancy firm, revealed that 45% of the 3,000 Americans surveyed said their brand preferences have changed since the start of the pandemic. 62% of Americans expect that their brand preferences will change permanently before the pandemic ends.
The study, titled Brand Reckoning 2020: How Crisis Culture Is Redefining Consumer Behavior, Loyalty and Values, was conducted in mid-June, roughly three months into the pandemic. The purpose of the study was to measure American’s willingness to re-engage with the outside world and understand how the crises may have shifted their values.
Other Findings Revealed
74% percent of those who participated in the study believe that recent protests against racial injustice make it more important to support businesses that focus on diversity and inclusion. 72% said it is more important to give their dollars to support minority-owned business, and 88% said the coronavirus pandemic has made it more important for companies to behave ethically.
The brand, formerly known as Aunt Jemima, is one of the most recent brands to shift considering the changing mood. In June 2020, the company announced plans to change its logo of a black woman due to its racial and stereotypical origins. In February 2021, the breakfast food company announced its new name, The Pearl Milling Company.
Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Quaker Foods, North America, Kristin Kroepfl, told NBC News the company is looking at its brands to ensure that they, “…reflect our values and meet our customers’ expectations.”
What Is Brand Authenticity or Brand Trust?
According to Geoffe Beattie, a Cohn Global Practice Leader of Corporate Affairs, the definition of Brand Authenticity is, “A brand that has values and morals and stands by them no matter what while honestly divulging its practices (flaws and all). In fact, the thing people most wanted was open and honest communications about products and services. And that finding was consistent around the world.”
In other words, being an authentic brand means that your products, actions, and marketing communication methods align with your mission, core values, and beliefs.
Here are three examples of authentic brands and how they have proven that they can be trusted during these controversial and uncertain times in our society.
Dove has always been a true champion of brand authenticity by aligning its marketing efforts with a mission statement that says, “Beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety.” Dove launched their “Dove Self-Esteem Project” in 2004, to back up their mission statement. The company’s vision for the project, according to its website, is to “ensure the next generation grows up with a positive relationship with the way they look.”
Over the years, the company has created many resources and has launched many campaigns to help woman increase their own body confidence. Dove released the “Courage Is Beautiful” campaign early in the pandemic, shining a spotlight on frontline healthcare workers. The ads revealed real doctors and nurses with marks on their faces from wearing protective equipment constantly throughout their shifts. The tag line “Courage Is Beautiful” is displayed next to them. The message penetrates the heart and shows gratitude for healthcare workers. The end of the commercial mentions that
Dove is donating to the Direct Relief fund to care for frontline workers. The company has aligned its marketing efforts with its mission and has backed it up with action.
Netflix’s mission is “to entertain the world” with its abundant streaming service. The company used its voice in the wake of George Floyd’s death to say, “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter.” The streaming service has made it clear that they strongly believe in racial equality. Netflix took action on these words by creating an entire black lives matter genre. The collection featured stories about racial injustice and the experience of being African American in America. The company used its voice to stand for what it believed to be right and then acted on it.
Chobani is another champion of real authenticity. As the leading Greek yogurt brand, its mission is to “bring high-quality yogurt to more people and create positive change in our country’s food culture.” When CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, came to America, he was not exactly impressed with the quality of yogurt being distributed in the United States. So, he jumped at the opportunity to create a yogurt with quality and natural ingredients. The company’s mission is to nourish people by providing better food options, standing behind the belief that, “Better food for more people fosters healthier lifestyles,” according to their website.
Chobani is also committed to making an impact on local communities. Chobani understands that there is a need for food assistance during the pandemic, and created a new limited-edition flavor, PB&J, while donating 100% of its profits from this flavor to Feeding America. Chobani has remained committed to its mission to impact communities through business, with quality food.
All three of these brands are displaying their authenticity by taking a stand and creating products that align with their missions, thus creating effective marketing communications, and backing up their missions with ethical actions.
Brand authenticity is important, and studies have shown that authenticity not only helps drive sales but also drives consumer loyalty. Why? I believe it’s because the brands that we choose to support, in many ways, help us to express who we are and what we believe in.
Before we go any further into this year, take a hard look at your branding strategy and ask yourself if you are truly standing up for who you are and what you believe in. Remember that what you do today, in this major time of need, will be remembered and can permanently affect the decisions of potential consumers in the future, long after this uncertain time ends.