“It will take me a few days to get $800,000. Is that okay?”
This was actually uttered by the CEO of a tech startup when an early adopter customer was unsatisfied with the product and wanted to cancel their contract. The lesson herein is that this company is still alive, is thriving, and dominates their industry; and the customer still tells the story to peers … who buy the product.
It was a most authentic statement. Here, the CEO was understanding about the customer’s desires, and the limitation of his corporate cash flow, but also the need to make things right. He may have lost a sale, but he built a corporate reputation concerning authentic relationships.
The Authenticity Issue
Authenticity has always been a valued part of a brand. Now it is as critical as a heart.
People once allowed a lot of slop from corporations in terms of integrity (doing the right thing even when nobody is looking). But as mass media and then social media roared to life, companies that said one thing and did another were excoriated. In recent times, this includes the likes of Volkswagen in the wake of their fudging pollution test results.
Authenticity has many elements, and trust (belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something) is just one element. Of the sundry definitions for authenticity, for marketing purposes we’ll use “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” If your business’s brand is one of a heartless corporate cyborg, people may still trust you if you consistently act as one. But if your logo has butterflies and bunny rabbits, yet you lay waste to entire rain forests while harvesting raw materials, you will be rejected.
The Millennial Connection
Which brings us to millennials, the next super-sized set of consumers, and the ones currently with the largest household discretionary budgets. Here are some scary realities about these buyers:
- They matured in the online world, and are adept at spotting fakery.
- They prefer high-context connections, and place value on trust.
- They are not in the dark about their own influence, and they use
No segment of the consumer market has ever demanded more authenticity from brands than millennials, and so few companies are delivering. Yes, many enterprises claim authenticity, and create expensive advertising to promote it. But walk into their stores, try to return items via their websites, and check what is being said about them online, and the story can be very different.
As we have mentioned (endlessly) before, every customer/vendor touchpoint is an instance of brand interaction. When your sales clerks, your web designers, and your tech support agents are not fully vested and trained in authentic care of the customer, you lose. With millennials, you lose big.
Set your corporate culture, your training programs, and your internal incentives accordingly.