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Brand authenticity: Caring as the new status symbol

Consumers are seeking brand authenticity, says Rags2Riches President Reese Fernandez-Ruiz.
Consumers are seeking brand authenticity, says Rags2Riches President Reese Fernandez-Ruiz.

The world has changed, and so have we. To stay relevant, companies must adapt to this shift in consciousness and lifestyles. Now, more than ever, consumers are demanding brand authenticity.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is a tragic event that has cost thousands of lives, it has also caused a shift in our values as a society. It has become an opportunity for us to become better people. For us to work together to build a better post-pandemic world.

What customers want

“I think because of where we are right now, and we’re being forced into this whole shift, this whole change that’s accelerating a lot of trends, I’m also hopeful that the new status symbol will not be how much you have, but how much you care,” said Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, president of social enterprise Rags2Riches.

In the midst of this crisis, people are rejecting traditional marketing messages. Moreover, instead of seeing brands as status symbols, they are asking what values brands truly stand for–and how much value they can get from these brands.

“People will have less money to spend. They’d want it to matter to their families and to themselves, but also to other people. Suffering right now will be even more pronounced. We have social media and we see people suffering all around us. I think there will be that consciousness. So the new status symbol would have to be how much we care for others. And I hope that status symbol is not just a status symbol but a really sincere one, because the world needs that,” Fernandez-Ruiz said.

Radical simplification

Fernandez-Ruiz was one of the panelists at regtech startup UNAWA’s “Navigating the New Normal: Revenue Generating Trends” webinar on April 24. This was UNAWA’s second free webinar, and Fernandez-Ruiz was also a panelist on the first one.

In fact, according to this Bloomberg article, the COVID-19 crisis could be an opportunity for radical simplification.

“Closer to home, many of us have already begun to simplify. If we used to fear missing out, now there’s little to miss out on, which is the best excuse for staying home with the family. Frivolous connections are being pruned, while meaningful ones are revived and cultivated during ‘happy hours’ on Zoom. Prodigal and exotic travel is out, so nobody feels bad about ‘staycations.’ In everything from diet to medicine and fashion, ‘simple is the new black.'”

Quality, not quantity

Forget seasonal trends, says ANTHILL Fabric Gallery Co-founder Anya Lim.
Forget seasonal trends, says ANTHILL Fabric Gallery Co-founder Anya Lim.

Speaking of the fashion industry, Anya Lim, co-founder of social enterprise and fashion e-commerce platform ANTHILL Fabric Gallery, said the shift is already happening.

“People are going to look at quality over quantity, things that are made to last, not just ready-to-wear. All the seasonal trends now are out the door. What’s more important now is what’s comfortable and practical,” Lim said.

The demand for brand authenticity means that consumers are looking for companies that practice the values they profess.

“I think there’s really going to be a shift in consumption. Now people value the slow life that we are living. People are more reflective and intentional in where they use their money. That’s why transparency in communication works. I feel that also for businesses, they would want to produce products that are of quality. Products that really benefit not just the consumer but also those who made those products,” Lim said.

Not just advocacy

Buying local will make more sense, says UNAWA CEO Mona Dimalanta.
Buying local will make more sense, says UNAWA CEO Mona Dimalanta.

For her part, UNAWA CEO Mona Dimalanta said what is happening is not a simple paradigm shift, but a consciousness shift.

“Even at the macro level, the shift is happening. One of my other advocacies is renewable energy. One of the things I can see is that 1o years ago, we saw renewable energy as an alternative. But now there’s global disruption in the supply that we rely on from other countries. Imported fuel, for example. Now we’re focusing on local–what’s here, and what’s here is usually renewable energy.

“That’s inevitable, I think. I’m very confident that they will be convinced. Because it will make sense. So it’s not an advocacy anymore because of principles, but I think people will realize it will make sense to buy local, to support local companies,” Dimalanta said.

Brand values at the forefront

It's time for companies to become more authentic, says Mintel Indonesia Country Head Bong Pacia.
It’s time for companies to become more authentic, says Mintel Indonesia Country Head Bong Pacia.

Bong Pacia, Indonesia Country Head of market intelligence firm Mintel, emphasized that businesses should become creative in adapting to the current environment and addressing the new needs of consumers.

“Brands will always have values. Businesses will always have values. It’s just that it is now at the forefront of everything. You know, in Filipino, we always say, ‘Magpakatotoo ka na lang’. So let’s cut the crap. Let’s just show what we are. If we really are designed to be able to help people, now is the time to do that. If we want to be as real and as close to our customers, then so be it.

“It’s no longer a factor of doing the advertising jig and all of that. It’s that value of now we are a bigger community whether we like it or not. We don’t compete with the restaurant next door, or with the other business next door. No, we are actually working together, and it’s just changing the entire values of what businesses are all about.”

Changing the world

This crisis can be an opportunity for brands to think about the relationships it wants to build with customers. They will also need to take better care of their employees, which will be the topic of UNAWA’s third free webinar on April 30. Those interested can register here.

As Pacia put it, a seismic shift is changing the world, and it will demand brand authenticity.

“We’re all part of history, whether we like it or not. We’re all part of changing the paradigms and principles. This is the perfect time for us to be inventors.”

So, will your company step up to the challenge and embrace brand authenticity?


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