Brands know that building a trusting relationship with consumers is a key part of creating loyalty, advocacy and boosting customer retention. To achieve this goal, marketing strategies should focus on communicating an authentic message to their customers. This is often tied into brand values, audience pain points, and the company's USP.
But why is this authentic marketing so effective at generating customer loyalty?
UGC puts consumers at the heart
In the overly saturated online marketing world, where users are swamped with a cacophony of adverts almost every waking hour, consumers have grown tired of overly branded marketing. This is especially true in the wake of such events such as Facebook's Cambridge Analytica and Volkswagen's emissions scandals. Trust is at an all-time low for organizations, with a high level of skepticism among consumers when it comes to the claims brands make about themselves.
And so user-generated content (UGC), where ordinary people submit their own content, is able to cut through the noise and create authenticity. Consumers are much more likely to trust content from other users, helping companies to garner long-term loyalty. Instagram is a particularly good resource for organizations to showcase UGC and use their loyal following to do the marketing for them.
Lonely Planet is just one of these brands that is making the most of their online community and encouraging loyalty by asking their followers to share their adventures and be a part of their organization.
GoPro is another company that is reaching out to people to share their own content, while also showcasing their product. This shows their online following what their camera is able to do without producing branded content.
Trusted brands need to be honest
In the old days of marketing, brands wanted to protect their reputation at all costs. If something went wrong, they needed to cover it up and they couldn't portray themselves as anything other than perfect. However, many - like Facebook and VW - slipped up, sometimes catastrophically, and their relationships with consumers were damaged to such a degree that they may never be repaired.
For brands to be authentic, they need to practice honesty in their marketing. This may mean holding your hands up when you're caught out. When Netflix tried to transition from a DVD service to a streaming one, it got more than a little tangled up, charging some customers twice the amount. This led to an open letter apology to consumers, which has probably saved the company in the long run.
Facebook has also invested millions into running a TV apology campaign to try to repair the reputational damage caused by the privacy scandal.
Honesty doesn't need to be a footnote in your marketing, instead it can be the basis for an entire campaign. McDonald's, in the wake of growing skepticism from consumers about fast food production, launched an international campaign to foster trust with buyers. McDonald's Canada even went as far as to open an "Our Food. Your Questions" initiative where all questions and answers about their food would be published.
Why authenticity is key to customer loyalty
The Drum found that nearly 90% of people aged 18-24 and 78% of people aged 25-34 say they are either much more or a little more likely to buy from brands that align themselves to causes or issues they feel passionate about.
Just nine days after President Trump signed an order to temporarily close America’s borders to refugees, Airbnb aired a high-profile ad in direct response to his decision.
The ad, called “We Accept”, showed a montage of people of different nationalities along with the words:
We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.
Creating an emotional bond with consumers will build loyalty over time but it isn't always easy to pull off. It also isn't something that will happen overnight. It can take years - or even decades - for brands to generate a truly trusting connection with their audience.
However, by living their brand values, humanizing their marketing through honesty and UGC, and communicating with customers and fans, companies in all sectors can achieve this through authentic marketing.
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