Brand Authenticity is Needed, Now More Than Ever
Call it the Ted Lasso effect if you’d like, but consumers are all about seeking authenticity and simplicity these days. The wildly popular Apple TV+ series showcases several characters in multi-faceted and authentic relationships. Whether it is Ted as head coach and Diamond Dogs leader, Rebecca and Keeley as mentor/mentee friends, or Roy and Keeley’s romantic relationship, the storylines explore what it means to have authentic connections. Consumers are craving these genuine relationships, and Gartner calls out “Seeking Sincerity” as a top Consumer and Cultural trend for 2022. As the world has become increasingly complex, consumers seek refuge with straightforward and authentic interactions with one another and with brands.
What Makes an Authentic Brand?
So, maybe it’s time to relook at your brand strategy through the lens of authenticity to see how you deliver. Let’s look to Ted Lasso and six words that start with the letter ‘C’ to help answer that question.
- Clarity: Your brand strategy should set a clear understanding of what the brand is (and isn’t) at its core. There can be no authenticity without a foundational structure of brand strategy. We learn early in the series that Ted Lasso is a coach who cares more about helping his team be “their best versions of themselves on and off the field” versus the team’s win loss record. This is the crux of his brand of coaching, and it guides his daily choices. Notice there is an inherent choice in his strategy. He is not going to please everyone and indeed, the series explores the tough consequences of this stance. What clear choices is your brand making?
- Consistency: The character of Ted Lasso is reliably the same whether he is talking to reporters or to his team. What you see is what you get. Consumers need brands that do what they say and say what they do through and through. It’s hard to develop a lasting relationship with an inconsistent person (or brand). Is your brand fulfilling its promises consistently every day to your audiences?
- Caring: Coach Lasso genuinely cares about his team members. They feel that difference and in return, grow to be very loyal to him. He goes beyond transactional relationships to a deeper level. He shows them he is thinking about them, even when they are not on the field, for example by celebrating Sam’s birthday. That wasn’t directly going to make Sam a better player, but it did show him that his coach cared about him on another level. How are you showing your consumers you are thinking about them when you aren’t trying to sell to them? How can you create a deeper and more well-rounded relationship with them?
- Curiosity: How do you begin to develop that in-depth, authentic relationship with your consumers? Hint: be curious about them. In fact, as Ted quoting Walt Whitman would say, “Be curious, not judgmental.” Get to know your consumers outside of just understanding their buying process. What is important to them? It should also be important to you. How can you engage your organization to be genuinely curious about your consumers? Does your brand strategy reflect what you have learned by being curious about your target consumers?
- Communication: Brands have gotten better about two-way communication with their consumers, especially with the advent of social media. However, in order to develop a truly authentic relationship with your consumers, you can’t just listen to them, you need to hear them. You also need to communicate that you have heard them —whether it is acknowledging their concerns with your brand, their new ideas, or their praise. Ensure you are having two-way conversations and not just providing them a “give us your comments that will go into a black hole to nowhere” experience. One of the first listening steps Ted Lasso took with his team was instituting a suggestion box. The resulting improvements he made clearly communicated to the players that he was serious about changing things that mattered to them. How have your communicated to your consumers that you have truly heard them?
- Confirmation: There is a lot of momentum around engaging current employees to help tell brand stories to external audiences. Employees are a great litmus test as to whether your brand is authentic. If they are questioning a brand’s authenticity, you can bet that your consumers will eventually have similar doubts as they get to know your brand better. Just as Coach Lasso relies on Coach Beard to keep him in check, so too can you rely on your employees. Are your employees seeing the promise of your brand in action? If not, where are the disconnects?
As Ted Lasso has shown us, being authentic isn’t always easy, and it is a commitment, but it pays off in the long run.