There is a common thread amongst the top 100 most authentic brands across the globe, and it’s not just based on opinion. Rather it stems from a comprehensive study, carried out by Cohn & Wolfe, which surveyed more than 1,400 brands over a period of two months. The study assessed more than 200 global brands, used over 15,000 consumers, and involved 15 different markets around the world. There is a lot that is great about these companies and there is a lot we can learn. While each brand is unique and individual, perhaps the most telling result from the study was what was the same. These 100 authentic brands had one thing in common, and that may be exactly what makes them authentic.

most authentic brands 2018

With the list of most authentic brands including prestigious names ranging from Amazon to Apple, to Disney to Lindt, there was clearly a wide enough variety that the brand authenticity factor didn’t come down to product or service alone. In fact, it was completely independent of these factors and was indeed altered within the brands to meet these company components in every step of their marketing. Each of these 100 companies did one thing that allowed them to stand out in brand authenticity — connect their brand message to the right media and the right audience.

Whether they were marketing their newest computer to millennials, or their latest chocolate flavor to families, the sentiment was the same: gauge the audience, create media and messaging around the brand that will connect with the target audience and, in return, leverage incredible results.

Image: Mike Baptiste on Reshot

But perhaps more important is understanding how brands created this brand authenticity and how you, as a small business can create that same kind of brand authenticity for yourself,

1.Create and Use Their Own Authentic Photos

When it comes to authenticating a brand, standing out and being seen, classic stock photos simply won’t do. Consumers crave connection, and given the degree to which we are visually influenced by marketing and ads, it only makes sense that a brand would want to stand out from the mirage of standard imagery. The answer instead, is to use authentic images that can drive that connection, and in the end, make a conversion between the brand and their target audience.

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This photo trend is a godsend to small businesses who often struggle with budgets.  Forget the expensive stock photos or hiring expensive photographers.  Armed with a smartphone and some free apps, you can take your own images.  Better yet, get your customers involved and ask them to submit their photos as well.

2. Selection Between Formal and Casual Language

If a brand’s message is not displayed in an image then it is dictated by words, and words have a lot of power. Authentic brands use words selectively – that is, they choose the words to use based on the audience they address and select between formal and casual language appropriately. Audiences respond to the way they are spoken to – if they feel like a message or brand is being directed at them, and speaks to them, it is more likely to result in a conversion. Likewise, and conversely, if the brand doesn’t speak to them, it is likely a game-over sales deal.

Years ago, small businesses used to work very hard to make themselves look “big” by using corporate language.  This is no longer necessary and, in fact, can work against you.  Be yourself! Don’t be afraid to use simple words and add some fun and personality to your marketing.

Here’s a bit of trivia: You know how they tell you to speak at the 6th grade level? The reason this is even more important these days is because people are reading content from mobile devices.  They are scanning through information quickly and if your sentences are too long and your words too long and complicated, your ideal customer will simply click away.

3. Nailing Visual Identity

The visual identity of a brand is composed of the elements of a brand that cannot be put into words. It involves things such as the brand symbol or logo, color choices, and overall brand visual features. More than that though, it is the picture that shows up in the mind of the audience and consumer when they think about the brand. For businesses, this translates to the need to have a visual identity that is salient, has staying power, and that pops up above all the rest when it comes to a consumer making his or her choice. The definition of authenticity within these 100 companies was just that: their visual identity was so strong and true to their brand that the consumers were drawn in and committed to that identity by selecting that brand.

Image: Leo on Reshot

Between addressing their audience, nailing their visual identity, and using the right imagery carving out consumer connection, these top 100 authentic brands have all touched upon the same themes to yield the same result and bring them a lucrative and prosperous business outcome. Yes, they are large companies with large marketing budgets but don’t let that stop you.  The one strengths any small business has is the ability to build brand authenticity without really trying.