The words “transparency” and “authenticity” definitely have a semantic relationship, but in the world of brand marketing, the two are very distinct things. So, what is the difference between brand transparency and brand authenticity, exactly, and why does your company need both?
Brand transparency defined
The term transparency refers to the absence of hidden agendas and conditions. When applied to the world of marketing, a transparent brand is essentially one that makes important facts and data available to its consumers. If you are a fast food chain, for example, you can become more transparent by making your food’s nutrition information readily available to customers. Many people get the idea that more transparency is always better when it comes to marketing (because doesn’t that build authenticity?), but the important thing to remember here is that transparency expectations vary greatly by industry. A legal firm is going to exercise much more caution with what it shares than, say, a clothing company would. When seeking to build transparency, you would ideally share only those things that you feel are important for your customers to know.
Brand authenticity defined
The term brand authenticity, on the other hand, refers to a company’s ability to remain true to who they are as a company. Authentic brands stay true to their mission statements. They connect with customers emotionally and show empathy. They are consistent in how they engage in social media—and everything that they do online contributes to their established identity.
Putting them together
As you can see, both concepts revolve around truth, and both concepts involve making your brand more human in some way. Brand strategy expert Mark Di Somma explains the difference between transparency and authenticity in this way: “We quite rightly think of both transparency and authenticity as being about truth. The difference is that transparency is about being true to others in what you disclose while authentic is about being true to yourself in how you act.” So while transparency is about honesty in how you present yourself, authenticity is about remaining true to who you are as a company.
Which matters more?
As Advertising Age puts it, “Transparency is all the rage, but authenticity matters more.” You can make all the facts and data available to your consumers, but that alone will not grant you authenticity. Building authenticity requires looking inwardly as a brand and determining how much candor is characteristic of your brand. If your brand is built on a lofty persona and on a sense of mystique, for example, then of course complete, casual candor in your social media marketing is not going to be perfectly suited to you. It’s important to practice transparency as applicable, but finding authenticity is ultimately the battle you are facing in your marketing.