Which aspect of your brand is most important to your customers?
Is it your ability to create state-of-the-art products and services? Is it the fact that you offer next-day delivery or free postage on orders over a certain price?
While those things certainly contribute to a powerful brand, the truth is that nothing is more important to your clients than a feeling of mutual trust. One study found that today’s customers believe brands should act with “integrity at all times”, as credibility is key to strong company relationships.
So, what is brand integrity?
In simple terms, it’s a measure that helps to determine how your audience perceives your brand across a range of touch-points. It’s the reputation you achieve through your client service, state-of-the-art products, and brand image. Whenever you fail to hit the mark with your brand promises, you risk losing your integrity and diminishing the value customers see within your organisation.
The question is, how do you develop customer trust through brand integrity?
It all starts with understanding your unique identity. Only after you know where your venture came from, what it stands for, and where it’s going, can you achieve brand integrity.
Let’s get started.
Yours sincerely: What is brand integrity?
In an era where reputation is crucial to success, brand integrity is an important consideration for any company. While you can make all the promises you like, design a marketing plan that’s all about authenticity, and strive to show transparency in your practices, your customers won’t believe a word you say unless you have brand integrity.
The first step in finding your integrity definition is understanding what your brand stands for. What makes your company unique? Which values help you to resonate with your audience, and how can you make yourself appear as trustworthy as possible?
If a brand promise is all about telling your customers what your company can deliver, brand integrity is about finding creative ways to follow through on those commitments. It’s about giving weight to the things you say so that your customers know that they can believe in your claims. So, how do you build customer trust with the benefits of brand integrity? Start by:
- Being genuine through transparency: Being genuine in business isn’t always as simple as it seems. When a little white lie could potentially deliver more customers to your door, it’s tempting to stretch the truth. However, brand integrity means connecting with your customers in a transparent, authentic way. Be honest about the services and products you can offer and create your brand image around your USP.
- Be social: Integrity is something you need to “show” your audience. You can’t just tell someone that you’re trustworthy and principled and expect them to believe it. Today’s customers are cynical, which means that you’ll need to do the extra work in building a relationship with your customers. A good way to do this is on social media. With a social media campaign, you can show behind-the-scenes videos that highlight your company values and share content that acts as proof of your corporate claims. Plus, there’s always a chance to generate reviews and referrals from happy clients too.
- Be humble and human: Finally, a corporate entity can’t really have integrity – but a business leader and a group of devoted employees can. Today’s customers don’t trust faceless corporations, but they do believe in people. The more you show the human side of your organisation, the more your company will grow. This means apologising for your mistakes and showing people that while you might not be perfect – you’re doing your best.
The benefits of brand integrity: Why honour matters
If you want to achieve brand integrity, then you’ll need to put a lot of work into establishing your personality and showing your customers that they can trust you. There’s more to earning customer trust in the digital age than having a social media channel, and a transparent supply chain.
Customer loyalty is on the decline, and the only way to change this fact is to convince your customers that your business can offer them something they really want to hold onto. While brand integrity isn’t easy to accomplish, it can be incredibly lucrative when used correctly. Here are some of the benefits of brand integrity:
1. Give weight to your authority
Brands with integrity don’t try to be everything to everyone. Instead, they focus on creating a believable, realistic identity that positions them solidly within their chosen niche. When you’re that zeroed-in with your brand strategy, you’ll find that the authority you have in your space will naturally begin to build. Brands with integrity have an unshakable level of clarity and confidence, which helps them to challenge bigger brands, and become leaders in their field.
2. Radically differentiate your company
Every company is looking for a way to stand out from the crowd today. Some attempt to accomplish their goals by focusing solely on the benefits of their services or products, but brand integrity requires you to take your focus a step further. If you want to tap into true customer trust, then you need to show people that you’re more than just a company. Brands with integrity focus heavily on “why” they do what they do – and it’s not just to make cash. By embracing concepts like CSR, ethics, and more, brands with integrity set themselves apart in the marketplace.
3. Generate trust and loyalty
When a brand stands for something, it naturally draws the attention of more passionate, loyal followers. Companies with brand integrity not only show that they care about the same things that their customers value, but they also deliver on their promises to change the world. This means that brand integrity creates loyalty and trust – two things that are at the heart of every successful business development.
4. Attract ideal customers with ease
Finally, the laser-focused nature of businesses with brand integrity means that they appeal to a specific group of niche customers. When you know the principals that are guiding your company forward, you can easily adjust your marketing strategy to appeal to people who share those principals. The result is a company that aligns itself with a community of devoted fans and brand advocates. Over time, brand integrity can convert the standard customer into an ambassador for your brand, driving referrals and long-term revenue.
How to use integrity to build trust for your business
While brand integrity might seem complicated on the surface, it’s all about staying true to who you are, and what you do. In an environment where trust in business is the holy grail for many companies, if you can show your audience that you’re capable of following through on your commitments, then you’re sure to get ahead of the curve. Brand integrity:
- Transforms your image and identity into something with weight and purpose.
- Helps people to understand the nature and soul of your company.
- Marks you as a trustworthy and reliable organisation.
- Encourages engagement and transforms customers into advocates.
- Elevates you above the competition.
So, how do you achieve brand integrity?
Step 1: Know who you are
At its heart, integrity relies on consistency. It means deciding what you want your brand identity to be and sticking by that definition no matter what. After all, your customers will struggle to believe in a business whose image is constantly changing. Think about the values that drive your company towards success. Why does your organisation exist (beyond the fact that you want to make money)? Get back to your roots, and apply your values, vision, and beliefs to everything you do in your business.
Step 2: Be part of something bigger
Brand integrity often works best when it’s combined with a corporate social responsibility strategy. Today’s customers think it’s important for brands to give something back. When you show that you’re willing to stand for something, your company instantly becomes more relatable, which helps you to resonate better with your target audience. Affiliating yourself with a charity also gives you plenty of opportunities to demonstrate your integrity through carefully-planned campaigns to improve customer trust.
Step 3: Create a conversation
Great brand integrity thrives on connections. If your customers can’t reach out and talk to you, then how can they start to build a relationship with your brand? Make sure that you give your clients as many ways as possible for them to reach you. Whether it’s answering messages on social media, or responding to emails, it’s important to let your followers know that there’s someone on the other end of the computer screen or phone dedicated to improving their experience.
Step 4: Take responsibility
Accountability is one of the things that companies struggle most with when they try to achieve brand integrity. When you work on a culture of honesty, honour, and candour, you need to be willing to hold your hand up and admit to your mistakes when they happen. Everyone has flaws, and you’re only human. Owning up to problems quickly can turn a difficult situation into an advantageous set of circumstances. In fact, when customers see you being honest, they may begin to feel an even closer connection to your company.
Step 5: Be consistent
Finally, as mentioned above, brand integrity can’t exist without consistency. Giving mixed messages by failing to follow through on your brand promises or changing your tone of voice on different touch-points can lead to mistrust and suspicion. Don’t leave your clients to wonder who the “real you” really is. Make sure that you have a brand manifesto or governance guidelines to portray the same image through all your communication strategies.
Brands with integrity: How brands can show their authentic side
Though the concept of brand integrity is nothing new, it’s something that has seen a lot of attention in recent years. Thanks to the rise of the fourth industrial revolution, and “digital transformation”, more brand conversations are happening online than ever before. As communication grows increasingly virtual, consumers are searching for more real, authentic conversations with brands, and that’s where integrity comes in.
Here are 3 examples of companies using brand integrity in their marketing strategies. If you’ve been asking yourself “Why is trust important in business?” then these examples could answer your questions:
1. Burger King
Burger King’s “Burning Stores” ad campaign is a great example of brand integrity. Though showing customers images of your buildings covered in flames might seem like a strange approach to marketing, it worked for the fast-food company because it allowed them to take ownership of their flaws and transform their image.
Though most companies would have tried to hide the fact that more of their restaurants had burned down than any other fast food restaurant, Burger King took an alternative approach with the fun slogan “Flame-Grilled since 1954.” By transparently showing the brand at its worst moments, Burger King positioned itself as a transparent company with brand integrity.
Maintaining brand integrity is tough, but clothing retailer Patagonia seems to have it down to a fine art. After discovering that their customers care deeply about the sustainable nature and ethical sourcing of their clothes, the company set out to show its brand integrity by dedicating itself more environmentally-friendly production methods.
When Patagonia released its first television commercial in 2017, the advertisement had nothing to do with the clothing it sells. Instead, the company chose to demonstrate its commitment to building trust in business by raising awareness for important social issues.
3. Sport England
Finally, the hugely successful “This girl can” campaign launched by Sport England first appeared in 2015. Following its success, the campaign has constantly been re-developed and optimised. With brand integrity as their focus, the company worked to celebrate active women in society, reminding people that it’s okay to get hot and sweaty when they’re working out.
The more recent campaign in 2017 remains largely true to the original, but the company recently widened its target audience to reach out to women between the ages of 14 and 60. With phrases like “A kick right in the stereotypes”, Sport England has shown us what it truly stands for, earning trust in business.
Maintaining brand integrity: How to preserve customer trust
Companies with brand integrity stand apart from the crowd by operating with absolute transparency. In everything they do, they project an aura of openness and honesty, bringing humanity back to business relationships.
In such a competitive business environment, where customer experience is king, and the rules seem to change almost constantly, integrity is a crucial component of business success. While there’s obviously more to running a powerful brand than living by your word, companies who show their customers that they can be trusted are sure to benefit from stronger relationships with their clients, better affinity, and long-term loyalty.
Here are a few tips on how you can not only achieve brand integrity, but maintain it too.
1. Choose your integrity definition
On a basic level, the word “integrity” translates into transparency, truthfulness, commitment, and consistency. However, if you want to achieve customer trust, then you’ll need to figure out what integrity really means to your brand. Ask yourself questions like:
- What should we fight for?
- How do we act?
- What words do we want our customers to use when describing our brand?
- How do we solve real customer problems?
Think about your brand promise, and whether you’re delivering on customer expectations as you make your way towards your corporate vision.
2. Share real stories
Want to discover the benefits of brand integrity? The next time you’re planning a big marketing campaign, reach out to your customers and ask them to share their stories instead. Alternatively, speak to your marketing and sales teams and ask them to talk about the things that they’ve discovered when working with your business.
Sharing real stories from authentic people is a great way to give your company more depth and humanity. Additionally, reviews and testimonials can add to your brand integrity by providing proof that you’ve stuck to your word.
3. Commit to customer service
Brand integrity will always rely on great customer service. Every customer interaction that happens at every touch-point in your marketing space is an opportunity for you to transform your reputation either from a positive, or negative perspective. However, it’s worth noting that even your static customer service elements like blog posts, knowledge-base articles, and FAQs can enhance brand integrity.
By showing your customers that you’re there for them every step of the way – even if you’re not having face-to-face conversations, you convince your clients that they can trust you. Just remember that your clients will judge you by the level of care you provide through your customer service solutions. Be careful to take your strategies seriously.
4. Act with emotion
Brand integrity brings a human element to your company. With that in mind, it makes sense that it would help your marketing assets to become more emotional. Avoid the technical jargon, get rid of the acronyms, and speak with confidence about the things your brand believes in. With your values and goals in mind, you can shape brand messages that truly connect with your intended audience. This helps to build a connection that convinces your customers to take the things you do and say seriously.
Remember to use your buyer personas to guide you when you decide what kind of brand personality you want to build. However, once you’ve chosen the values that matter to your company, remember that integrity always shows up best when it comes in the form of emotional blog posts, active campaigns, and events. Show your customers that you’re not just “saying” you care about something – you’re deeply involved with their issues.
5. Know how to adapt
The relationships between customers and brands are constantly changing, with new trends entering the marketplace at a constant rate. While integrity relies on consistency to thrive, that doesn’t mean that you should be deaf to the changing needs of your audience. Be receptive to change as it happens and take advantage of opportunities when they arise. For instance, if you notice that your customers start to care more about environmental friendliness than fast shipping, you can begin to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.
Brand integrity isn’t about staying still and stubborn no matter what happens. It’s about knowing when to stick to your guns, and when to adapt to suit your customers.
Brand integrity: It’s a marathon
Let’s be honest, building a brand that your customers love, and appreciate is never easy. True brand integrity is an ongoing process, particularly in today’s digital world, where touch-points and customer relationships are always changing.
The good news? By focusing on a quest for brand integrity, you create a foundation where strong customer relationships can grow and develop. As our lives become increasingly virtual, customers around the world are searching for brands that can offer real, genuine, and authentic experiences. Brand integrity allows you to achieve credibility in a world where people aren’t sure who they can trust.
When you achieve brand integrity, you demonstrate the relatable and human side of your business, while showing your customers you have the strength to do what’s necessary and live by your word. The more obvious your integrity is, the easier it will be for you to convert leads into customers and transform customers into life-long advocates for your brand.
Achieving customer trust doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does mean developing an in-depth understanding of both your clients and your business. Only when you know exactly what your audience wants, and what you can give them, can you build a reputation for credibility, authenticity, and integrity.
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