Keeping it real when your business is growing

In today’s increasingly digital world, we humans are desperate for real connection. We don’t just want a product or service that meets our functional need, we want something that satisfies our soul. We want to deal with brands we can trust, with engaging experiences and values that support our own. The need for brand authenticity has never been greater.

So what is brand authenticity? A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology defined Perceived Brand Authenticity as:

The extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful to itself, true to its customers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers in being true to themselves.

The study validates the belief that brand authenticity is a driver of brand choice (i.e. sales!), increases word-of-mouth (i.e. referrals!) and emotional brand attachment (i.e. repeat purchases!). So, it’s up there on the scale of stuff you need to get right.

An annual global study showed the 5 most authentic brands were Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google and PayPal. The study found three key drivers of authenticity:

  1. Reliable: they deliver on promises and deliver high quality
  2. Respect: they treat customers well and look after their data and privacy
  3. Real: they communicate honestly and act with integrity

But authenticity is not just for huge global brands. The need for authenticity holds true whether you are a big or small business, whether you’re offering products or services, or selling to consumers or businesses. Here’s some of our fave authentic brands:

  • Cold Concepts is a client of ours who installs industrial refrigeration equipment in places like supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants. They are incredibly focused on delivering quality equipment and are well known for their impeccable after sales service and maintenance. They are also committed to supporting apprentices, contributing to the education and employment of young people and the continuation of skilled labour in their industry.
  • Thai on the Island is a Thai restaurant located on Phillip Island, VIC. Their food is authentic and amazing, thanks to the input of their owner and head chef who hails from Thailand. But what makes them stand out is that they donate all of their tips to charity. Since they opened in 2010 they have donated $50,000 to build a library, outdoor eating area, and new playground at a disadvantaged school in Phetchabun province in Central Thailand.
  • Who Gives a Crap is a subscription based service supplying environmentally friendly toilet paper that uses 50% of its profits to build toilets in the developing world. To date they have donated over $1.8 million dollars to charity and saved a lot of trees, water and energy.
  • ENGIE is another client of ours and a global energy and services company who understands that as the world’s largest independent power producer, they play a pivotal role in protecting the planet. In Australia and the Asia Pacific region, they have closed or divested all emission intensive power generation facilities. They also work with businesses to reduce their energy use, and they are working with developers and governments to build smart cities of the future, like in Springfield, Queensland, which by 2038 will be a city that produces more energy than it consumes.

Arguably, authenticity is simpler for very small businesses as there is far greater control by a smaller group of people. So, what happens when businesses start to grow?

Change is always challenging, and business growth can often make or break a business. If you’re a small business, you’ve probably found authenticity happened without a second thought. But what happens when your team grows, and you’re no longer the one making sure every customer interaction goes off without a hitch? What happens when you need to increase production, and expand your supplier base? How can you be sure everything will be perfect if you’re not eyeballing everything, all the time? How can you manage to retain authenticity through growth?

The answer lies in having a strong vision, a detailed plan for delivery, and making sure you communicate it well.


  • Be clear – know what you stand for and have a single-minded vision. Document it thoroughly and share it with your employees and suppliers. Make sure it’s something they believe in and take on as their own. Remind them often, but don’t nag, and reward those who are doing the right thing.
  • Lead by example – culture is driven from the top – if you don’t embody your vision and if your every action doesn’t support your fundamental purpose, there’s not a chance that your team will do it on their own.
  • Be consistent – inconsistency is like poison to authenticity, so have guidelines in place and training for all on brand, voice and representation at every touch point.
  • Keep your promises – always deliver what you promised, when you said you would. This builds trust, essential in every purchase decision. Today’s savvy customers will see through the hype if there’s no substance beneath, and connection through social media means that there’s nowhere to hide.
  • Do a good job – you can be authentic but be rubbish at what you do, but this is not a recipe for success. Deliver high quality products and services so people can rely on the outcome. If quality is dropping during growth, spend time finding out why, and addressing the issues head on.
  • Be active – it’s always better to demonstrate your authenticity than just talking about it.
  • Be approachable – have two-way conversations and make it easy for people to contact you. As you become too busy to respond to every enquiry, have a good team around you, well trained and passionate about upholding customer service.
  • Be respectful – always treat your customers well and go to great lengths to protect their personal details. Make sure you have processes and security checks in place.
  • Be accountable – mistakes will happen, you’re only human after all, as are your team. Own your mistakes as a business and see mistakes as a learning experience for your team. Customers don’t actually expect perfection, but they do demand honesty. Be big enough to admit your mistakes, and fix them best you can, in an open way.
  • Be charitable – you can be authentic without being charitable, but it is still worth having on your list. It will differentiate you and humanise your business. People want to feel that they are doing good, even vicariously through the purchase decisions they make. Attaching yourself to a cause will connect people to your brand.

If you are going through a growth spurt and you’d like some help, get in touch and we’ll give you a hand retaining your authenticity throughout the process.