The Keyhole makes observations about consumers, brands, ads, & marketing, through a predictive customer loyalty lens. Most marketing is ineffective to today's bionic consumer, given undifferentiated products, loss of "brandness," & hard to come by profits. Marketers talk about "engagement" but nobody seems to be doing a very good job measuring or integrating it into what they do & it shows! The Keyhole opens a dialogue on this subject & suggests real-world solutions with the marketing community.
Sunday, October 02, 2016
The Brand Authenticity Cycle
You know how it goes, Brand Authenticity = Product Authenticity = Brand
Authenticity = Experiential Authenticity = Brand Authenticity. . . and the beat
You hear a lot about how brands are supposed to be “authentic,” although
you’re likely to hear different definitions from different brands, some related
to category, some related to experience, and some actually even related to
brand, with some designations more plausible than others. Brand Keys views
“brand authenticity” as a set of values – the most leveragable of which are
emotional – that a brand can believably own.
The critical words in that last phrase was “believably own” because it
turns out that there’s an enormous difference between a brand saying something,
a brand doing something, and a brand doing something believably. If it helps,
think of it as a brand’s emotional version of “a promise made, should be a
promise kept.” In a world where consumers talk to themselves before they talk
to brands, you definitely want consumers to feel that your brand is keeping its
promises – or the promises you make about your products or services – and,
thus, protect your brand’s authenticity.
In the Retail sector, “authenticity” has a lot to do with “trusting what
the brand says or sells,” which has a lot to do with “brand reputation,” which
has a lot to do with “customer loyalty,” which has a lot to do with “sales,”
which has a lot to do with... well, you get the point. This is true in
all Retail sectors, but more particularly in the sub-category “Discount
In a category where low-lower-lowest prices correlate so very highly with
the perception of value and product primacy, consumers ask the question, does
the product deliver on what was promised and do I feel I received real value?Authenticity is why responsibility for things
like illegal child labor practices ultimately came back to haunt discount
retailers. They weren’t running the sweatshops, but who else was the customer
to blame? Sure, cheap is cheap, after all. But do consumers really care where a
product is manufactured? Or how? Or if it’s exactly up to specs? Or whether
political prisoners are sewing soccer balls with their teeth? The easy,
intuitively obvious and rational answer is, of course “yes,” but brand loyalty
research in the Discount Retail category proves it’s so. And to a much larger
extent that has previously been assumed.
A recent Brand Keys study examined Target, Walmart, and Kmart shoppers
and measured the connection of authenticity to actual behavior in the
marketplace. It turns out that people who felt the brand more “authentic,”
shopped the brand six times more frequently, bought more products from that
retailer, and were also more likely to rebuff competitive offers, especially
one that were price-based. They don’t call it “Discount Retail” for nothing!
So an authentic brand yielded more loyal customers. But it also turns out
that “authenticity” is strongly related to expectations consumers hold for
primacy-of-product, the head-nodding response to the question, “Did I get what
I paid for?”
These findings were most-recently face-validated when Target pulled
Welspun India Ltd.’s products from their shelves after the brand’s
investigation found they couldn’t guarantee that the products were actually
100% Egyptian cotton as advertised.
The following week Walmart announced that it would stop selling the
“Egyptian” cotton sheets made by Welspun because they couldn’t attest to the products legitimacy. They removed all
products from their shelves and have offered customers a full refund. They
donated the sheets to some good cause.
But it turns out that Welspun has not used actual Egyptian cotton in
their products for two years. Oops! And if that’s not enough to have you
question the authenticity of products you buy, the Cotton Egypt Association,
which certifies suppliers, estimates that 90% of products labeled “Egyptian
cotton” are inauthentic, or the precise opposite of “authentic.”
Good brand marketers need to understand that not only must their brands
be authentic, but their products must be authentic too. And while our studies
have confirmed that precept, perhaps Shakespeare said it best:
above all: To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Particularly it you want loyal
Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.