Sunita Bangard, President - Marketing, Idea Cellular, spoke at the Pitch CMO Summit held recently in Mumbai on the topic: Building Brand Authenticity in the Digital Age. Bringing attention to the fact that authenticity in marketing is a key topic that is extremely relevant in this day and age, Bangard said that authenticity and honesty have emerged as key attributes of a brand because consumers are becoming very savvy. “The landscape is changing and it is time to get real with our customers,” she said.
What is authenticity?
Bangard defined authenticity in the marketing sense saying that it is all about “how the brand resonates with people; if it is relevant whether the brand has the ability to keep promises, is it competent and finally, does the brand have integrity.” Authenticity gives customers a reason to care about the brand, she said.
An authentic brand needs to have clarity about its place in the market and its core values. “Brand authenticity is about how companies internalize their values in everything that they do: their mission, vision, and daily operations,” she said.
Authentic brands and companies recognize who they are, who their customers are, what they love about the brand, and actually value that in everything that they do. “For a brand to operate with authenticity, it is important to have an emotional connection with the customer and build empathy,” she said.
Why is authenticity important?
Millennials who are becoming an influential customer segment, look for authenticity because they are socially connected, hyper-connected, and driven by knowledge. “Millennials love brands that are open and transparent, and have loyalty for socially-conscious brands,” she said. Bangard added that the way to reach out to millennials is to engage them with real conversations about subjects they care about.
The digital era has taken control of the brand to create its image and given it to the people. “Brands are the property of the consumer and we need to have a firm grasp of this concept if we really want to have success in the marketplace. The only way to be authentic is to shape your messaging according to the consumer’s needs and expectations,” she said.
Bangard said that today the role of a CMO is that of a conductor. “The CMO needs to manage all the conversations and interpretations of the brand and ensure that they are in harmony with the brand’s philosophy,” she said.
According to Bangard, authenticity improves trust and trust builds business. “Authenticity-driven brand advocates are the ultimate satisfied customers and like all highly satisfied customers they spend more than twice as average customers and generate buzz around the brand and bring down the cost of acquisition of new customers,” she said. “Authenticity also makes the brand admirable,” Bangard added.
How to get authentic?
Bangard listed some tips to help brands become authentic:
Think beyond advertising and provide experiences that are authentic and available across all touch points.
Stay consistent across touch points and platforms.
Put community before commerce. Build a relationship with consumers and understand them
Be honest and transparent. Open up and own up to mistakes to regain trust from consumers.
Open up our businesses. Let offline experiences drive online conversations.
Humanize the brand.
“We need to stop selling and start engaging to create pull marketing,” she concluded.