Authenticity in Branding & Marketing: What’s Your Brand’s Promise?

The recently released 2017 Cohn & Wolfe Authentic Brands study is the result of an ambitious undertaking. Cohn & Wolfe surveyed over 15,000 consumers across a wide variety of markets in search of a deeper understanding of their perception of 1,400 popular brands. Culminating in the “Authentic 100” – the top 100 U.S. brands ranked according to consumer perception of authenticity – the study “examines the role of authenticity in business, the attributes associated with an authentic brand and the impact of authenticity on consumer… attitudes and behaviors.”

It’s no surprise that authenticity is an attribute that is highly valued by today’s consumers. In our social media-saturated society, consumers have more opportunities than ever before to interact with brands on a “personal” level and they demand that engagement in exchange for their loyalty to certain brands and products. Let’s take a look at how consumers perceive authenticity and what that means for today’s brand builders.
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The Rise of the eSports Economy

Competitive video gaming has existed for decades, as both amateur competitions between friends in suburban basements and professional level tournaments with large audiences and cash prizes. Now, gaming seems poised to take a major leap forward, gaining the legitimacy given to other organized competitions through the establishment of governing bodies and an expanding infrastructure catering to players and spectators alike. A recent local radio segment brought my attention to the rapid growth in collegiate eSports programs, revealing the breadth of interest and investment in the gaming economy.
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Augmented Reality: The Future is Ready to Download

In our previous exploration of augmented reality technology, Inside the Innovative Mind: Virtual & Augmented Reality, we took a look at the origins of AR and how it might evolve in ways that connect people to their surroundings in new and innovative ways. Today, less than a year later, the explosion of AR apps is already offering a broad range of new experiences to users. From enhanced gameplay in real-world environments to consumer/product interactions and even clinical applications in medicine and pharmacology, AR is making incredible strides.

Let’s take a look at some of the products of this new technology that are reshaping how we interact with the world around us.
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What “Peak TV” Can Teach Us About Brand Engagement

Industry experts call it “Peak TV” – a title that acknowledges both the quality and quantity of scripted series currently airing across established networks and upstart streaming services alike. For viewers at home, it may feel impossible to keep up with the sheer number of “must watch” shows. That’s an understandable feeling. FX Networks, which tracks the series currently on the air, notes that 342 individual scripted series have aired so far in 2017, making it the biggest year on record for TV programming.

For producers and marketing departments, this glut of content creates a mandate: stand out from the crowd or fade away. As a result, some of the strongest brands around right now belong to TV shows. In the age of Peak TV, what can show brands teach us about storytelling and audience engagement?
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Is Blockchain the Building Block of the Future?

I recently stumbled across a quote that captured my imagination by speaking to today’s entrepreneurial mindset and unleashing the future possibilities of innovation and hard work. Tapscott Group CEO Don Tapscott, during an interview with a tech writer for McKinsey & Company, said, “I’m not a futurist. I think the future’s not something to be predicted – it’s something to be achieved.”

Tapscott’s words should resonate with any successful innovator. We learn through experience that while ideas are important, the execution of the idea builds the true foundation for success. Too many good ideas have been compromised by faulty execution or overshadowed by others who got there first. Tapscott reminds us that prediction is not as powerful as action – that the future is built by those who take the first leap forward.

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Two Powerful Strategies for Building Consumer Trust

We’ve been engaged in an ongoing exploration of the state of consumer trust (which has recently reached record lows) and how brands can reverse the trend. Today’s consumers, empowered by technology to choose from a wide range of products and to interact with brands on an unprecedented level, prize authenticity, engagement, and social responsibility. It’s a tall order for brands that previously focused solely on selling a solution to a problem.

Marketing in 2017 is about more than solutions – it requires establishing a brand identity that resonates with many various subsets of our increasingly fractured culture. And as the demographics of consumer groups continue to change, brands must emphasize diversity but transcend tokenism. Does it all make your head spin? It all comes down to trust – whether or not consumers believe that your brand has their best interests at heart.
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