How to future-proof your brand: Authenticity, ethics, and connection across generations
To create a resilient brand; you need to stay true to your values, attract talent through authentic storytelling, build customer connections, and maintain a consistent brand identity.
Customer expectations are shifting fast. More than previous generations, Gen Z think of themselves as “true stakeholders” in the brands they buy. They expect to develop a “genuine relationship” with companies, not just a transactional one.
Brands need to work hard to build that relationship. We asked five leading brand experts across the globe how to build stronger relationships with modern customers. Here’s a sneak peek at their most important advice.
Stay true to what makes your brand unique — commit to authenticity
There’s a lot of buzz about how important it is for brands to be sustainable, climate-conscious, eco, or act for social good. This is the perfect fit for some brands, but is it right for yours?
Companies connect with their customers by establishing trust. To do this, you need a clearly defined set of values — and to live up to what you say your values are.
For example, one of Levi’s core values is sustainability. It lives up to that through its secondhand store, encouraging customers to trade in unwanted Levi’s products to keep them out of landfill and extend their usable life.
This authenticity is so important to customers today. It can be why they choose you in the first place, or why they keep buying from your company.
On the other hand, inauthentic brand behavior can damage customer relationships. “The reality is you’ll get found out — whether it’s dodgy supply chain decisions or a track record of a toxic culture.” explained Richard Swain, Principal at DesignStudio New York.
Swain, and several other brand experts, shared their thoughts on why it’s so important for brands to be authentic:
Attract and retain the right brand builders to your company
Building a strong brand needs the right people involved. Instead of the traditional employer branding tactics, Laurence Stoffel, Head of Global Creative Studio at On, believes your brand’s story is the secret to attracting them.
“If you communicate your story in an authentic way, people will believe in that and automatically come to your brand or want to work with you,” she said.
Strong brands are created by the whole company, not just your marketing department. So you need to think big. “Everything you do as a brand is employer branding.” said Noah Bramme, creative at Johannes Leonardo NYC.
Think of it this way. Your sales team delivers product demos, your support team troubleshoots customer problems, and your product team creates the products your customers know and love. Each interaction contributes to your brand’s identity in the eyes of your customers.
Find out why one of our experts thinks employer branding can actually be a distraction from another core problem.
Make genuine connections beyond generations and channels
Brands with real staying power connect with customers across generations. They know how to make genuine connections, without forcing it or relying on tired stereotypes. Our experts shared tips to help you connect with new and existing customers.
Create cross-generational value for Millenials, Gen Z, and beyond
“A lot of brands are looking at the wrong axis. They’re looking at the different generations rather than looking at what’s the thread that connects [them],” explained Zoe Scaman, Brand Consultant at Bodacious.
Each new generation brings new potential customers to your brand. But you don’t need to revamp your entire strategy, just to connect with a younger audience. The things that appeal to your existing customers are likely to appeal to new ones, too.
“Find the common values and interests across the generations, and find messages that speak to these shared experiences,” said Snask founder, Freddie Öst. This will give your brand a way to connect with customers now and in the future.
For example, Patagonia updated its values in 2022 (its 50th anniversary) to ensure they remained relevant to the business and its customers. Its core values appeal to its customers — those are what connects them, not their age or other demographics.
Scaman is one of several branding experts who shared ideas on how brands can build stronger connections with their customers — especially appealing to a younger audience:
Fight fragmentation with a strong brand core
Today, consumers encounter brands across so many different channels and platforms. If you want them to recognize your brand and trust you, you need a consistent, recognizable brand identity across all those channels.
Öst explained, “Brands need to focus on developing a strong strategy and messaging that can be adapted across all the multiple platforms and touchpoints.”
Öst and several other brand experts discussed ways brands can create a unified, consistent identity across every channel:
Build resilient brands for tomorrow’s customers
Want the full story on how to build resilient and successful brands in the long term? Now’s your chance to learn more from five top branding experts.
Download our guide to get their insights on authenticity, employer branding, and generational marketing, to connect with your customers of today and tomorrow.