Consumers increasingly expect honest branding, meaning the company values are accurately represented in marketing and the ways in which the brand interacts with the world. According to the 2021 Consumer Experience Sentiment Report by Merkle, brand reputation and customer service had the highest levels of growth compared to a year ago.
This means you can no longer overlook the importance of honest branding and honest marketing. Consumers want you to be authentic, transparent, and show that you don’t just talk the talk—you walk the walk too.
To bring honest branding into your marketing, use these five simple strategies. A few small changes in the way you communicate your brand and interact with consumers can make all the difference.
1. Focus on Your Diversity Efforts
Employees continue to value diversity in the workplace. According to a survey of more than 8,000 adults by CNBC and Survey Monkey, 78 percent of workers feel it’s important to work for a company that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) efforts have become a core focus of many companies over the past year, but few are investing in these goals in a meaningful way.
In the same survey, only 33 percent of employees believe their employers are doing a lot to invest in DEI efforts. Most think they are doing some or a little. What’s more, consumers want to shop with companies that support diversity.
In fact, 64 percent of consumers reported being “somewhat likely” to purchase from a company immediately after seeing a product advertised by a brand that embodies diversity and inclusion. Another 67 percent are somewhat likely to make a second purchase as well.
Yet, that advertisement isn’t enough. Honest branding starts internally. If you promote diversity in your marketing, you need to walk the walk inside your business as well. In this case, DEI needs to be a core value for every team member in the company, not just a well-meaning marketing tagline.
2. Speak Out About Your Beliefs
What does your business stand for? This is a question that more consumers are asking from the brands with whom they choose to shop. For example, a 2021 Edelman survey found that 80 percent of Americans believe CEOs should support voting rights legislation in an attempt to fight systemic racism. In addition, 59 percent say they feel it’s appropriate for CEOs to speak against legislation that’s “discriminatory or unethical.”
Not only do consumers want to hear what you have to say, but your employees do as well. In the CNBC and SurveyMonkey report, 77 percent of black workers would support their leaders for speaking up on important issues, but only 52 percent of leaders feel comfortable doing so. Honest branding means standing for what you believe in—especially when it means supporting your employees.
Speaking out means risking losing a customer base that disagrees with your values. On the other hand, it also means gaining customers and loyal followers who respect your honest branding.
Keep Reading: How to Bring Social Advocacy Into Your Marketing
3. Take Time to Provide Explanations
Your customers are smart. When something goes wrong (either through a product recall or an issue with your software) trust that they can handle—and want to hear the honest truth about—what happened.
This is a core honest branding strategy in a time when social media makes it easier than ever for consumers to rally together for or against a brand. Susan Berkley, an international communications expert, explains:
“It’s useless and naïve to tell customers not to worry or expect them not to get frustrated. They ARE worried, and maybe even angry at how the events will affect them (or their companies) personally. Don’t leave them guessing. Give them all the facts.”
Your customers are more likely to understand and stick around if they know you aren’t hiding something.
4. Clarify Your Strengths and Abilities
Offering something for everyone is generally considered a bad business move. When it comes to honest branding, this is also critical because there is power in stating what you can do and what you cannot do.
“Being forthright about your strengths and capabilities will enable you to attract your ideal customers who need the solutions and products you offer,” says Lorraine Carter, president of Persona Design. “Those who your honesty deters are more than likely poor leads.”
Leading with honesty about what you do and what you offer makes it easy to stand by your work. You don’t have to oversell yourself or make false promises that you can’t keep. More importantly, you’ll attract the right people to your business and brand, allowing you to be even more successful.
Keep Reading: How to Develop Your “Know Like Trust” With Social Media
5. Let Your Employees Speak
The best way to show that you walk the walk and talk the talk is to let your employees speak. If they’re as passionate and committed to the company values as your marketing strategy implies, consumers will respond. SproutSocial’s Brands Get Real report explains:
“Consumers enjoy seeing the real people who bring a brand to life, and they report feeling more connected to brands whose employees act as advocates on social.”
Luckily, this is an easy strategy to implement no matter the size of your organization. Starbucks did this during Black History Month on Instagram by highlighting employees’ voices. Small and large organizations alike can easily follow suit to bring honest branding to the forefront of their strategy.
Commit to Honest Branding
Marketing trends come and go, but honesty is here to stay. Your employees and customers alike expect you to stand by the core values you promote in your marketing. It’s not enough to have a set of beliefs, your executive team and managers need to stand by them—even when times are tough. Use these strategies to integrate honest branding into your marketing and develop a deeper and stronger connection with your audience and customers.