Why Authenticity Builds Trust

April 7, 2017

Authenticity Builds Trust Quote

Whether your company is for profit, non-profit or not-only-for-profit, the most important part of brand purpose is trust. However, earning trust is difficult to achieve and easy to lose as we’ve seen this week.

When I think about brand purpose, there’s one attribute that rises to the top: authenticity. Some could argue that by its overuse the word has less meaning. Gone the way of innovative, leading-edge, premier. For me, authenticity remains an important measure of a company, campaign, or brand purpose statement and the foundation for trust. To build trust, a company must believe, act and deliver on what it says.

This week, REI announced its Force of Nature campaign, timed strategically with Equal Pay day. The campaign outlined plans to turn greater attention to women by: emphasizing the portrayal of women in their stores, a commitment to classes and activities geared toward women, access to and quality of merchandise they offer for women and a $1 million commitment to women’s causes.

They, of course, were not the only company touting accomplishments and/or female-focused initiatives this week. So what makes this any different? For me, it’s authentic brand purpose. I looked at REI when I was researching brand purpose a few months ago and found it put this way on their website: “a life outdoors is a life well lived.”

Building from its successful #OptOutside campaign from 2015, REI has established credibility for putting their campaign into action. More so, the company is adding to strong roots as a woman-founded business, stands behind its 100% product guarantee and offers a co-op designed to reward customers and give back. The Force of Nature campaign also checks the boxes of the company’s guiding principles: “we all work to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

Interestingly, Pepsico was another brand I researched as I was looking at brand purpose. According to their website, which has not changed since I looked in January, this is what they believe: “At the heart of PepsiCo is Performance with Purpose – our vision to deliver top-tier financial performance over the long term by integrating sustainability into our business strategy.” Both the mission page and their Performance with Purpose goals describe a commitment to investing in their people, company and communities.

I’m providing their words not as a critique but as reference. The company has admirable, quantifiable goals outlined to improve sustainability, workforce diversity and pay parity outlined within their plan. However, when you look at the recent Kendall Jenner commercial, you are left scratching your head.

Looking beyond the ad’s disconnect with important cultural, racial and political issues for a moment, is a misalignment with the company’s purpose and lack of authenticity. Too often when these things occur, companies are choosing to look outward rather than reflecting inward on areas of knowledge, strength and expertise. Put another way, they stray from their brand purpose.

Authenticity is a building block for brand purpose because it brings together today, tomorrow and yesterday. When you combine the actions a company takes today with the actions it has taken in the past, you build trust.




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Karen Bailey is a brand purpose consultant and specializes in helping companies define their purpose and align their business around it. In 2017, she launched the blog, Purpose Greater Than Profit, to start a meaningful conversation about the increasingly important role of brand purpose, purposeful leadership and a better way of doing business.


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