Don’t Just Talk — Be Authentic

Earlier this month, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Given the current cultural and political climate, the global day designed to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women seemed to take on a higher meaning than years past. With the string of controversial political decisions (cue: Brexit, the election of President Trump, travel bans, executive orders, etc.) that have become more common, it’s safe to assume that hot-button issues aren’t going away anytime soon.

Companies often feel they must comment on issues like these to connect with consumers. But it’s important to remember that today’s information-hungry consumers can learn everything they want and need to know about your company from their phones.

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The first thing to remember when speaking to today’s consumers is that authenticity is their universal language.

If your brand must comment on a hot-button issue, read on to keep it real.

Practice what you preach. State Street Global Advisors installed a statue of a little girl staring down the Wall Street bull on International Women’s Day. The statue was designed to call attention to the importance of female leadership and serve as a daily reminder to the more than 3,500 companies with which State Street invests. More importantly, State Street has a history of devoting resources toward improving diversity and women-focused hiring and board participation. Twenty-seven percent of its board members are women, the best among the Fortune 500.

Be honest. If an issue is important enough for your company to speak up about, but your actions fall short, acknowledge that your company is not where it wants to be and look for ways to spark change within your organization. No matter what you do, don’t just talk about change — create change.

Be authentic. Consumers struggle to find time to manage brand relationships, and they will always value authentic brand interactions over all others. Jack Daniel’s tweet featuring an image of his and hers rocks glasses with equal amounts of whiskey in them and the copy “no caption necessary” is a great example of a brand being true to itself and its consumers.

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Be a friend. EMA’s Brand as Friend® philosophy challenges us as marketers to look at everything through nine scientifically proven drivers of friendship. When honesty, advising, caring, connecting, listening, surprise, story, style and loyalty are used to create affection, relevance and trust, meaningful bonds and friendships are formed. Consumers are more likely to attach meaning to brands that relate to them in personal ways and will often choose them over others.