Several years ago, Chick-Fil-A made the disastrous mistake of launching a wellness site called “Let’s Gather,” with content centered on healthy food and living.
Yes, that’s right…Chick-Fil-A…the fast-food joint…
The site was created after the company’s CEO, Dan Cathy, made headlines for his controversial stance against gay marriage. It was a quite obvious attempt to change the image of the brand. The only problem is that “Let’s Gather” focused on healthy food that had absolutely nothing to do with the food that the chain served. Moreover, the site’s messaging was not congruent with the brand.
As Jillian Richardson of Contently mentions, Chick-fil-A was most likely inspired by Chipotle, another fast food chain that has successfully marketed itself as healthy and sustainable. But while Chipotle “actually takes steps to ensure that their content is consistent with their products and values,” Chick-fil-A does not.
To put it simply, Chipotle has an authentic messaging strategy…and Chick-fil-A does not.
So…What is Authenticity?
Many people get “authenticity” confused with “transparency.” Both are crucial to your brand’s success—but they are not the same thing.
As Neil Patel of QuickSprout puts it, transparency is how much you share and authenticity is “about what you share.” Authenticity means “being true to who you are as a person, writer, or a company.” It means defining your values—and staying true to them.
There’s a scale of transparency; some brands choose to share more than others. There is no scale of authenticity. Either your brand is authentic—or it’s not.
How Your Brand Can Be More Authentic
First, ask yourself this: What are your brand values? What does your brand stand for?
If one of your brand values is providing excellent customer service, then make sure you actually live up to that. If you’re all about sustainability and environmental conservation, then your messaging (and actions) should reflect that. Practice what you preach.
Whatever your brand’s core values are, be consistent. Ensure that all of your messaging echoes those values. And make sure your brand sticks to its beliefs.
This doesn’t mean that your brand’s values can’t change at all down the line. But if they do, then you need to explain to your customers why they changed.
Lastly, don’t try to appeal to multiple audiences. If you do, then you’ll most likely end up appealing to no one.
You can’t please everyone, so don’t try to. Some people will respect your brand and believe wholeheartedly in what you stand for—and others won’t. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
As Howard Schultz, Chairman of Starbucks, once said, “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”
And that, in a nutshell, is why your messaging strategy needs to be authentic.