Actions speak louder than words
How authenticity enhances your brand
Time and experience show again and again that actions speak louder than words. Think of brands in general: Which brands stick to you and why? Companies often underestimate and overestimate the expectations of consumers and stakeholders. What do they actually experience? How much is your brand aligned with its reputation?
It is not uncommon to see brands either accidentally perfectly hit the mark or completely misread the room (with the room being the needs and desires of the customer). When brand messages jar with what people feel, experience, and believe, we call this the ‚Authenticity Gap.‘
What is the Authenticity Gap?
The Authenticity Gap is the alignment between customer expectations and experiences. Since 2012, FleishmanHillard, one of the advisory labels of Omnicom PR Group, has been studying the authenticity between consumers and brands. With decades of experience navigating these gaps, FleishmanHillard and Omnicom PR Group assist organizations with authenticity in branding. In these ten years, they have researched 80 Dutch companies from various industries and interviewed 1000 consumers.
If you want to brand correctly, you need to be aware of your company’s level of authenticity. To fully enhance your branding, you have to keep up with the evershifting brand expectations and learn how authentic voices impact customers, partners and stakeholders the most. Long story short, to more authentically engage with your audiences; you need to judge your level of authenticity, discover where improvements can be made and compare yourself with your peers.
The consumer is the key to success
To understand and act on your gap between stakeholder expectations and their actual experiences, you can benefit from discovering what drives them. The Authenticity Gap study shows Nine Drivers of authenticity. These drivers act as a framework to give insights on customer benefits, society outcomes and management behaviors. The key takeaways of these Nine Drivers are:
Companies often make one common mistake: They only predominately talk about their products and services. By doing this, they only tell half of the story consumers want and need to hear. To tell the whole story, companies need to share their impact on society, including what the management thinks and does. For example, creative accounting used to be a trend but is now seen as tax evasion. Simultaneously, putting ‚celebrity CEOs‘ at the forefront used to boost the image and reputation of a company. Nowadays, companies need to put their management teams at the front, providing clear information on their views and strategies regarding climate change, cyber security, and data privacy. If the management is unclear in their messaging, this will negatively affect trust, transparency and image.
The Authenticity Gap studies show that companies tend to overperform on lesser important drivers while underperforming fundamental drivers. Every industry has its own important set of drivers, yet every organization should pay attention to the authenticity gap.
How to narrow the gap
According to the research of FleishmanHillard, 65% of Dutch informed consumers believe that a company’s credibility (compared to its competitors) depends on the transparency of company behaviors and impact on society and the environment. While drivers differ per industry, results show that brands in all sectors fall short on expectations on better value, customer care and environmental care. If you want to narrow the gap, you need to think of your company’s position in authenticity.
The answer to closing the gap between your company and society is challenging but not impossible. Consumers expect companies to be part of the solution to societal and environmental issues. This means fewer promises and more solutions. Therefore, your company should:
-Provide a diverse, inclusive and equal work environment
-Listen to the needs of customers
-Share corporate actions against climate change
-Be transparent regarding data privacy and cyber security
No matter the company size and industry, the need to listen and respond to consumers‘ needs and desires never changes. There is a reason why consumers seem more demanding: Companies often act as some form of role model when it comes to consumer issues. Thinking of the bigger picture often results in better strategic decisions and fiscal growth.
We at Global Connect Admin know what you can expect when it comes to authenticity in financial management positions. We have a long history and extensive experience in assisting companies worldwide with the organization of annual general meetings and administrative board meetings. Simply call or write to us, and we will gladly work together with you to see how to close the authenticity gap in international management.
Omnicom PR Group – FleishmanHillard