Authenticity is the Brand Consumers Love
Posted: Nov. 27, 2017
Is brand authenticity worth pursuing as a business goal? Why is authenticity important to restaurants specifically? And, most important, what actions can a restaurant take to maintain—or achieve—authenticity?
Branding. What started as a zippy tagline (like Nike’s Just Do It) has become a complete identity overhaul for businesses. How well a business speaks to customers via its website or sales materials, delivers its products, or represents itself as a company is an intricate and coordinated effort. Authenticity in the business context is no small feat to achieve, either. To be considered an authentic brand, businesses must be perceived as the following:
- Having continuity of identity.
- Being credible in their customer relations.
- Being motivated by genuine care and responsibility (for customers, staff, and depending on the audience, for the world at large through social responsibility programs, environmentally-conscious efforts, or similar).
- Connecting with and adding greater meaning to customer’s lives.
Why does authenticity matter? Customers seek out and are loyal to brands they perceive to be authentic.
A number of studies and research show that today’s customers show increasing support for businesses they see as ‘trustworthy.’ (In the context of business, trustworthiness is implicit in the perceived authenticity of a brand.)
- According to a 2013 study by Boston Consulting Group, customers identified authenticity as one of their main reasons for choosing a brand.
- In this infographic, Bonfire Marketing reveals that 63% of customers say they would buy from an authentic brand.
- 91% of consumers want brands to be authentic in their social media posts.
- Millennials are the audience most affected; authenticity is the leading driver when choosing a brand, second only to customer loyalty discounts.
Restaurants, to thine own self be true.
The scale of branding (and marketing) budgets used by major brands like BMW or Subway sandwiches, is very different from what you need to achieve perceived brand authenticity for your restaurant or bar. There is great value in implementing new systems like a Restaurant POS or investing in digital marketing. But mainly, you need to be true to your brand.
In the words of Jenna Telesca, Editor-in-Chief of Nation’s Restaurant News: "restaurants: just be yourself.” In her article, “Restaurants, to thine own self be true,” Telesca sends out a gentle reminder to the restaurant community of one’s original identity and reasons for opening shop.
Making authenticity a reality is easier said than done. Telesca writes, “Successful chains have a clearly defined brand promise is the touchstone and the lens through which they view any change. This identity-based focus doesn’t necessarily mean a brand should embrace change at a slow pace; in fact, it can make the process faster, especially with legacy brands.”
What’s your brand promise? Once you know the answer, you can take actions that support your promise and reinforce your restaurant’s brand authenticity.
Learn from those who spent decades honing their brand promises:
Denny’s—Denny’s first opened as a single doughnut shop in 1953, promising “To serve the best cup of coffee, make the best doughnuts, give the best service, offer the best value and stay open 24 hours a day.”
With almost 1,700 locations, Denny’s has had a big promise to uphold. Yet in nearly 60 years of being in business, Denny’s has stayed true to it, while adapting to the modern consumer. A complete breakfast menu is served all day long, most restaurants are open 24 hours, and they are experimenting with a 24-hour delivery option at certain locations.
Subway—Subway’s brand promise, “Fresh, healthy food made your way” won over customers right away. Most customers shared the opinion that healthy food was tasteless and boring, and Subway revolutionized the concept of healthy ‘fast food’ by offering personalized sandwiches at affordable prices
When Subway showed the incredible weight loss of customers the company made good on their promise. The response was tremendous. Hundreds of locations opened, and a Subway sandwich became the go-to, healthy option in the United States.
The sandwich giant floundered when it broke its promise for serving fresh and healthy food a few years ago. Rumors surfaced that a chemical used in yoga mats was an ingredient in their famous foot-long loaves of bread, and other unwholesome ingredients were listed, like refined sugars and MSG. There were additional issues found with their cheeses, cold cuts, and salad dressings.
Consumers were led to believe they were eating healthy and fresh food, and when the truth came out that Subway was serving otherwise, the disappointment and mistrust spread quickly. Since breaking its brand promise, Subway hasn’t been able to fully recover from this fiasco.
As you consider the kinds of changes you want to make in 2018 for your restaurants, whether adopting online ordering, offering third-party food delivery, or interacting via social media, stay true to your brand promise. If you try out new strategies, remember Tenesca’s words of advice: Just be yourself.
Posted: Nov. 27, 2017 | Written By: Emma Alois