Authenticity is a hot word in business.
Today's consumers don't want to be told how to think or what to do. Instead, they want businesses that inspire them, and customers are demanding greater purity and consistency in the products, messages, and values a company represents.
What is Authenticity?
Some define authenticity as being consistent in word and deed or having a fundamental character that doesn't change based on circumstance.
Inauthentic companies may come across as artificial, timid, fake, or gimmicky, while words associated with professional authenticity might include transparent, original, boldly unapologetic, legitimate, or truthful.
Authentic brands are those that stay true to who they are, what they do, and who they serve. This means that, in an age of unprecedented consumer empowerment, understanding your customers and what they expect from you is critical.
But in crafting authenticity in marketing, entrepreneurs should understand that the meaning of the word authenticity can vary based on customer expectations.
Authenticity Translated: Two Interpretations
Consider the restaurant industry in New York.
Two fan favorites in this scene include DiFara's Pizza in Brooklyn and Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. Both are lauded as "authentic." DiFara's reviewers rave that this pizzeria is as "authentic as they come," while Blue Hill at Stone Barn is hailed as "an authentic Hudson Valley culinary experience."
What does this actually mean?
Translation 1: In this genre of authentic companies, a product or brand perfectly conforms to the original.
DiFara's matches the expectations a customer might have for a "classic" Italian pizzeria experience. The pizzaiolo at DiFara's, Domenic DeMarco, immigrated to the U.S. from a small town near Naples and has been making traditional thin-crust pizzas in Brooklyn since 1964.
Translation 2: Blue Hill offers farm-to-table ingredients with a focus on creating sustainable food systems.
Here authenticity is assigned to a company that offers products or experiences that adhere to the core beliefs or values of the customer served, whether the value is for transparent leadership, unpolluted products, or a desire for excellence. (Think the Honest Company, Apple, or Yeti, for example.)
Which Strategy Should You Pursue?
According to four studies reported by the Harvard Business Review, authentically conforming to a category (see Translation 1) might lead to higher social evaluations (like 5-star ratings) but might not increase a consumer's willingness to pay more.
This can bring tangible benefits: research shows that even a 1-star increase in Yelp reviews may bring a 5-9% increase in revenues.
On the other hand, authenticity adhering to customer core beliefs (see Translation 2) might persuade consumers to pay more for those products.
How does this affect your business? Researchers said this:
"Managers should consider these patterns as they attempt to appeal to customers. Rather than assuming that any mention of authenticity leads to a better reputation or more revenue (or both), managers might do well to think carefully about what kind of authenticity their organization expresses. For organizations that convey authenticity because they exemplify a specific category or genre, they might focus on generating value by winning higher star ratings – which can increase sales traffic – rather than attempting to charge more for products or services . . . Organizations that evoke authenticity by adhering to their core beliefs might benefit more from charging a premium for products and services to a more selective set of customers."
Want to win at authenticity? You will be wise to choose the best way to meet customer expectations, ensuring each message you send is genuine and in line with your brand principles.
Don't just claim to be authentic, choose a strategy to pursue it. Then live up to this vision by giving your very best!