In The Age of Brand Authenticity, Most Marketers are Missing the Mark



As marketers, it’s natural to focus our efforts on what we can immediately control rather than put energy into big-picture changes that may require a larger (and far longer) organizational shift to achieve. We look for opportunities presented as low-hanging fruit to deliver quick, controllable wins that move the needle and validate our assumptions. It can be misconstrued as a foundational marketing strategy rather than what it truly is: putting a Band-Aid on something that requires a different set of tools to make it better. 

Less than half of marketers surveyed believe that their brand messaging, authenticity, positioning, and overarching strategy have made a significant impact on growth. This might be why it’s easier to focus energies elsewhere. But in a world where 88 percent of customers value brand authenticity, these factors should be key drivers of growth for the majority of marketers, rather than a minority. And these days, if your brand messaging and positioning are not driving significant growth for your organization, no number of bandages will stop the bleeding.  

Despite this, marketers are ignoring this golden messaging opportunity. 

Only about one in every three marketers consider reworking their brand messaging and positioning when planning their overall marketing strategy. Stranger still, it’s only this small group of marketers that invest in market research to gather a better understanding of how their brand is perceived by customers.   

Today’s marketplace is rife with volatility. Between the pandemic, the economy, and politics alone we’ve seen rapid shifts in consumer behavior and customer sentiment. Despite this, most marketers see brand positioning as a one-time investment. Their past brand work has driven results, so why reevaluate, right? But today’s customers expect brands to consistently evolve their messaging to meet the moment. After all, can a brand be truly authentic if it doesn’t adjust with the times? 

Brand awareness and engagement rely on a unique value proposition. 

Almost half of all marketers surveyed noted that improving brand awareness and increasing brand engagement are high priorities in 2022 and beyond. But this can be hard to achieve without a deep understanding of their target customers. In fact, over 60 percent of marketers lack confidence in their team’s abilities to engage consumers with their current brand positioning.  

Marketers who invest in real-time consumer research to better understand their customers have the upper hand. A clear picture of the market’s perception of their brand helps them differentiate from the rest. Think about it: by understanding what makes your brand valuable to your customers, you can respond far faster and adjust accordingly as the world changes. Your value proposition, after all, answers three key questions: what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for. If that value proposition hasn’t shifted in response to the events of the past few years, then it’s already outdated.  

Brands must stay relevant as the market shifts. But simply changing your messaging to respond to new trends or major societal events without care to customer perception may be seen as disingenuous. Leading with authenticity requires first understanding how your brand delivers value to your audience and adjusting that value proposition to meet the moment. 

Authentic brands are mission-driven, not mission adjacent. 

With the understanding that 82 percent of customers prefer to buy from mission-driven brands, more and more companies are jumping on the trend. But only 40 percent of marketers are confident that their organizations are truly mission-driven. Instead, many organizations are choosing to support a cause in a public way, but without consistency. 

Brands today must show that they value something beyond just profits. Social consciousness should be the norm, rather than the exception. Following the recent repeal of Roe vs. Wade, for example, dozens of businesses announced new health travel benefits that would help women travel to a state where they could seek care. The brands that continually respond to sweeping social change by showing their support for those in need have stood out for their authenticity. Companies who are simply jumping on the bandwagon to grow brand recognition, however, stick out like a sore thumb. 

Challenge your brand position and messaging today, tomorrow, and always. 

Marketers should regularly reconsider their brand position and messaging to ensure it meets the current moment. As the times change, so too will your brand perception in the marketplace. By taking the time to adjust your value proposition and messaging to align with today’s expectations, your organization will display a commitment to evolving with the needs of your audience consistently and authentically.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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