An original VW microbus with a DeadHead VW emblem
An original VW microbus with a DeadHead VW emblem

Authenticity Unveiled: What Being Genuine Really Means for Your Brand

Paul Kiernan

What does it truly mean to be authentic, and how can brands embody this elusive trait in their marketing and overall strategy?

The legendary college basketball coach John Wooden famously said, “Character is how you act when no one is watching.” This is similar to the idea that when someone acts strange, and we say that’s really out of character, we see their true self. We could go so far as to say what we’re seeing is their authentic self.

Yes, I’m going on about authenticity again. Why? Because the word gets tossed around more than a baseball at a little league tryout. It is used and used and reused, and it seems there’s no actual definition for it. And yet, as my fellow copywriters know, we are asked to write in an authentic voice for our clients, make authentic social media posts, and be authentic for our customers.

But the reality is that authenticity isn’t something you should be able to turn on and off. Your brand can't be “authentic” in ads and completely different when no one is watching. Authenticity isn’t a Halloween costume you buy from a Spirit Halloween store. It is something that you practice and make part of your life.

In this piece, we will examine authenticity and its relationship to your brand. We will also discuss how to be authentic, remain authentic, and avoid slipping your brand on and off like a pair of bedroom slippers.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Angle of Authentic

In a digital age, where consumers are bombarded with advertisements and marketing messages from every angle, standing out as a brand can be a formidable challenge. Amid this noise, one quality consistently resonates with audiences and helps brands build lasting relationships: authenticity. But what does it truly mean to be authentic, and how can brands embody this elusive trait in their marketing and overall strategy?

Understanding Authenticity

At its core, authenticity is about being genuine, transparent, and true to one’s values and promises. An authentic brand doesn’t just market products or services; it tells a story that resonates on a deeper level with its audience. Authenticity is not about perfection; it’s about showing your brand’s human side, including its flaws and imperfections. This creates a connection with consumers who are increasingly skeptical of polished and overly curated brand images.

The Importance of Authenticity in Branding

Building Trust:

Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, including those between brands and consumers. Authentic brands foster trust by being consistent in their messaging and actions. When a brand is perceived as authentic, customers are likelier to believe in its promises and be loyal to its offerings.

Emotional Connection:

Authenticity allows brands to forge emotional connections with their audience. When consumers feel that a brand truly understands and reflects their values and experiences, they are likelier to form a lasting bond with that brand.


In a crowded market, authenticity can be a powerful differentiator. While competitors may try to outdo each other with the latest trends and marketing gimmicks, an authentic brand stands out by staying true to its identity and values.

Customer Loyalty:

Authenticity breeds loyalty. Consumers who feel a genuine connection with a brand are likelier to stick with it through thick and thin. They become brand advocates, spreading positive word-of-mouth and contributing to long-term success.

What Authenticity Really Means for Your Brand


Being transparent means being open and honest about your business practices, values, and even your mistakes. Brands that are transparent about their processes, sourcing, and operations can earn the trust of their consumers. For instance, if there is a supply chain issue causing delays, openly communicating this to your customers rather than making excuses can build credibility.


Authentic brands are consistent in their messaging, tone, and actions. Consistency ensures that consumers know what to expect from your brand, which helps build a reliable and trustworthy image. This consistency should be reflected across all platforms, from social media and advertising to customer service and product quality.


Authentic brands are driven by a clear set of values and principles. These values should be evident in every aspect of the brand, from marketing campaigns to corporate social responsibility initiatives. Consumers are increasingly looking to support brands that align with their own values, be it sustainability, social justice, or community engagement.

Genuine Storytelling:

Authentic storytelling is about sharing real stories that reflect the true nature of your brand. This could include the company's history, the inspiration behind your products, or your customers' experiences. Authentic stories are relatable and resonate with audiences on a personal level.

An old man at a bodega buying a newspaper

Customer-Centric Approach:

An authentic brand puts its customers at the center of everything it does. This means listening to their needs, valuing their feedback, and continuously striving to improve their experience. Brands that genuinely care about their customers’ well-being are more likely to foster long-term loyalty.

How to Infuse Authenticity into Your Brand

Define Your Brand’s Core Values:

Start by identifying your brand's core values. These values should guide all your business decisions and be clearly communicated to your audience. Ask yourself what your brand truly believes in and how you want to make a difference in your customers' lives.

Engage in Honest Communication:

Ensure that all your communications are honest and straightforward. Avoid exaggerations or making promises that you can’t keep. If your brand faces challenges or makes mistakes, address them openly and take responsibility.

Showcase Real Stories:

Share stories that highlight the human side of your brand. This could include behind-the-scenes looks at your team, customer testimonials, or stories about how your products are made. Authentic stories create a deeper connection with your audience.

Be Consistent Across All Channels:

Maintain a consistent voice and message across all your marketing channels. Whether it’s your website, social media, or customer service, ensure your brand’s authenticity shines through in every interaction.

Listen to Your Customers:

Actively seek out and listen to customer feedback. Use this feedback to improve your products and services. Showing that you value your customer’s opinions and are willing to make changes based on their input can enhance your brand’s authenticity.

Highlight Your Brand’s Unique Personality:

Every brand has a unique personality that sets it apart. Embrace this personality and let it shine through in your marketing efforts. Whether your brand is quirky, serious, or compassionate, staying true to this personality helps maintain authenticity.

Case Studies of Authentic Brands


Patagonia is often cited as a prime example of an authentic brand. The outdoor clothing company is transparent about its environmental impact and is committed to sustainability. Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign encouraged consumers to buy less and think more about the environmental impact of their purchases, reflecting the company’s genuine commitment to its values.


TOMS’ “One for One” model, where a pair of shoes is donated for every pair sold, reflects the brand’s commitment to social responsibility. By integrating this mission into its core business model, TOMS has built a strong emotional connection with its customers, who feel they are contributing to a more significant cause with their purchases.

Ben & Jerry’s:

Known for its activism and social justice initiatives, Ben & Jerry’s consistently aligns its business practices with its values. The ice cream company is vocal about various social issues and integrates its mission into its brand story, thereby connecting with consumers on a deeper level.

A Superman action toy

The Challenges of Maintaining Authenticity

While striving for authenticity, brands may face several challenges:

Balancing Authenticity and Commercial Goals:

It can be challenging to stay true to your brand’s values and meet commercial objectives. It’s essential to find a balance where authenticity enhances rather than hinders your business goals.

Navigating Public Scrutiny:

In the age of social media, brands are under constant scrutiny. Any perceived inauthenticity can be quickly called out by consumers. Brands must be prepared to handle criticism and stay true to their values, even in the face of public pressure.

Evolving While Staying True:

As markets and consumer preferences evolve, brands must adapt while maintaining their core values. This requires a delicate balance between innovation and staying true to what makes the brand authentic.

Summing Up

Authenticity is not just a buzzword; it’s a crucial element of modern branding that can significantly impact a brand’s success. By being transparent, consistent, values-driven, and customer-centric, brands can build genuine connections with their audience. Authenticity fosters trust, loyalty, and emotional engagement, setting the stage for long-term success.

In a world where consumers are increasingly seeking out brands that reflect their own values and ideals, embracing authenticity is more important than ever. By unveiling the true essence of what it means to be genuine, brands can create meaningful relationships with their customers and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Talk to ThoughtLab

We know brands and branding. We work with you to ensure that your brand is authentic and remains so. We’ll help you tell your brand story in a way that allows your authentic self to come through and land with the right audience. We know brands; contact us and let us help your brand see further.