By Stephen Ardern

The world is changing rapidly and the noise is getting louder. Information is coming at us non-stop, and there is far too much for a single individual to absorb and process. There are more brands than ever before, all perfectly positioned and shouting from the rooftops. As a result, consumers are bombarded with a barrage of messaging from brands that speak to their every desire, all the time, and from every corner of the world.

Brand claims offering a better life come thick and fast, using trigger words: healthy, deadly, indulgent, moderate, lie down, stand up, walk, run, magic ingredients, everlasting life. It’s very difficult for consumers to understand what is real, which claims are reliable, and what they are getting with every purchase they make.

The barrage of information has created a shift in consumer behaviour, and today’s consumers have a new mission. Above all, they are seeking authenticity in the products and services they support.

The challenge: identifying authenticity in a sea of misinformation

There are endless obstacles when it comes to distinguishing authenticity in today’s crowded marketplace. The very word “authenticity” is overused – and often insincere. Worse still, after verifying a claims of authenticity, there is no assurance that it will remain so. Authentic can become corrupt very quickly, and brands have even tried to fake authenticity to drive sales.

Tesco was pressured to stop using fake farm names for its own-brand meat products. Through a campaign launched by the Feedback charity, the major UK retailer was accused of being disingenuous by using branding that implied foods were sourced from small-scale farming operations.

Despite the difficulties consumers face when it comes to identifying authenticity, the mission stands. Consumers demand real, authentic experiences like never before. This is driven by Millennials and Gen Z’ers – the young people of this world who have experienced more change than any other generation in living memory. However, the need for authenticity is a growing mindset across all generations.

Reaching authentic consumers through deep understanding of the authentic mindset

We believe in the importance of authenticity and have created some thinking around how brands can prepare for the future by reaching the authentic consumers of today. Success doesn’t lie in aligning to all of the mindsets, but finding what is right for your brand.

These are the four thoughts and guiding principles of the authentic consumer:

Make ethical choices

We want to choose the ethical option – and more than ever, we do choose the ethical option. In fact, 73 percent of those of us in the Millennial generation have stated that we will gladly pay more for sustainable, cruelty-free, ethically-sourced goods and services. Traditionally, that has been a one-touchpoint decision, like a key message at the POS. Now, the boundaries of what is ethical have widened to include an array of elements such as manufacturing, sourcing, the end-to-end supply chain, carbon footprints, and similar.

We love new alternative brands such as such as Know the Origin, Reformation, and Beyond Skin that are now offering timeless, well-made designs that do right by their workers, animals and the planet.

Add a dash of humour

We are ready to laugh at ourselves, and we believe that authenticity can live in humour - and in owning our guilty pleasures. All too often, authenticity can sound dry and hackneyed, but that is unnecessary. Instead, think about what it means to advertise in terms of humour and embracing guilty pleasures. We don’t want you to pitch to us. We want to engage in a two-way conversation, and we want to know there are humans behind your marketing. Humour is a great way to show us there are real people promoting your brand.

Thanks 2016. It’s been weird. campaign from Spotify connected with us by using our guilty pleasures to create little moments of magic, whilst also reminding us how great the Spotify platform is.

Embrace flaws

We are embracing flaws in response to “perfection fatigue”. Our generation is burdened by debt, we are anxious about our future, and we are exhausted and depressed by our constant struggle to be the best. We are increasingly disaffected by brands that focus on an unattainable state of perfection. Instead, we acknowledge and celebrate people’s imperfections, as this eases the sense of inadequacy that perfectionist advertising can bring out.

Forget the perfect world curated on Insta, we love new brands like D.EFECT, who are celebrating asymmetry, flaunting flaws, and believing in the real beauty of imperfection.

Seek out stories

We are original story seekers. We want engaging, powerful stories that encourage us and elicit our empathy. We want to connect on deeper, more personal levels, moving beyond the art directed “best shot”. We are early adopters, and we will stay loyal for life – but only if you draw us in. There’s a before and after – but there is also context and narrative. We want to connect with all parts of the story, even the less amazing parts. Let go, be vulnerable, lose control. We’ll love you for it.

Stay Together by Skype is a great example of this. No misdirection, or exploitation, just real stories of how lives have been changed through connection with others. It’s compelling, it’s emotional, and it’s real.

Consumers are on a mission. They want authentic experiences, and they will pay more for brands that match their values and sync with their lifestyles. Being heard through the noise of today’s crowded marketplace is challenging. The key is to consistently demonstrate your authenticity by engaging with consumers in a way that integrates some of this thinking into your approach, but only if it’s right for you to do so, it has to be real.

If you would like more insight in understanding the authentic consumer, we’d love to help. Drop us line.

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