Five minutes with Tasha Lenton
Tasha Lenton is client director at media agency UM. She talks about brand authenticity and picking a purpose
How can a brand earn authenticity over time?
The word ‘earn’ is key, it is exactly what a brand needs to do. Being authentic or feeling true is not something you can get overnight. You need consistency, which is fundamental to build authenticity. Some brands have built it over time with bravery and confidence, being consistent about who they were.
Authenticity is not marketing; it has to drive any decision a brand makes. Avoid thinking about how to present yourself in an ad campaign; you need to embed that attitude and consistency into how you treat your staff, your supply chain, even in your work culture. With the amount of information now available, anything negative can be found out quite quickly. And that will impact how consumers see you as a brand.
Consistency also means being loyal to what the brand has been so far. Don’t jump on the bandwagon – it is very easy to follow trends, but you need to make choices about where you want to invest your money. And if you do something wrong, just raise your hand. You’ll get a lot more respect if you show honesty and integrity.
Do you think all brands are fit for purpose? Why?
At this moment, maybe not all brands are. But that doesn’t mean they will not fit a purpose in the future. Brands and consumer needs evolve over time. It is much easier to adopt a purpose if you are not an established brand, of course; some smaller and newer brands can position themselves in the market as rising advocates for purpose and they don’t have to work around an existing brand identity to do so. On the other hand, larger and more established brands may have to go through a lot of consideration before making a choice. But that does not mean they can’t do it.
What are the risks of adopting a brand purpose?
The problem with brand purpose is that, at the moment, everyone is talking about it. Everyone says how important it is, but not everyone knows what to do with it once they have it. Risks are huge if you get it wrong. People can see straight through fake attitudes and will be quick to call you out. Pick your battles. You can do huge damage to yourself if you build up an amazing brand and then take out authenticity and consistency.
What is the agency’s role in brand purpose?
Our relationships with brands have changed drastically in the past 10 years. Agencies are brand guardians, but great agency partnerships are able to challenge the brand. Everyone wants to play safe and do what is right for a brand, but some agencies are able to question a brand in the beginning phase, which has an impact much earlier on and helps shape its future.
Agencies can also help with communicating brand purpose in the right way. With consumer insights, research and data, they can understand what is the best way to tap into the cultural conversation and reach out to consumers in the most effective way possible.