Brand Integrity: What is it and Why is it Important?

Brand integrity has always had the power to make or break a business. But in the world of eCommerce, it’s become more important than ever before. 

When shopping online, consumers can easily do a background check of your brand. If they read anything negative, it takes just a couple of clicks to find an alternative product from another company. With this in mind, it’s crucial that you build integrity for your online brand.

What is brand integrity?

Brand integrity is about how people perceive your business. This perception can be based on product quality, brand image, brand values, your company’s reputation or a personal experience.

Brands with integrity are honest and trustworthy. They are unwavering when it comes to their values and the promises they make to customers. When a business fails to keep a promise or acts in a way that doesn’t match up with their stated principles, this diminishes their brand integrity in the eyes of consumers.

In essence, having brand integrity means that a company’s business decisions and internal operations align with the values, promises and qualities publicised in their marketing.

Why is brand integrity important?

Every brand makes promises to its customers. Some swear that their products are the best, while others vow to provide exceptional service. Some promise low, low prices, while others pledge to pursue sustainable business practices.

But today’s shoppers are sceptical. While all these promises may seem impressive, they don’t mean a thing unless you have the brand integrity to back them up. Here’s why it’s so important.

1. Integrity increases sales

Consumers trust companies that have brand integrity. And with this increased trust comes increased sales.

Trusting a brand alleviates concerns around the likes of product quality or ethical matters. This, in turn, removes the barriers to conversion and means shoppers are much more likely to part with their hard-earned cash

According to research from Edelman, 81% of consumers need to trust a brand in order to buy something from them. The more a product costs, the more essential this trust becomes. Significantly, this attitude is common across all markets, age groups and income levels.

2. It nurtures customer loyalty

Being committed to certain values allows brands to connect with consumers on a meaningful level – and this builds brand loyalty.

Emotional connections can be formed when shoppers know a brand will be there to support them if something goes wrong. This also happens when shoppers know their purchases will help support a cause or an idea that they believe in.

Edelman’s survey demonstrates that a good reputation can convince consumers to try a product, but 67% will stop making purchases if they don’t come to trust the brand that makes it.

3. It promotes advocacy

Brands with integrity consistently deliver on their promises. When this happens, customers can confidently recommend its products to friends and family.

This is particularly true for brands that have ambitious or admirable values. When customers really believe in what a brand represents, they’re more likely to act as an advocate.

These advocates can be incredibly valuable. As well as providing word-of-mouth marketing, they also contribute reviews, ratings and user-generated content which can drive online sales. Considering just 4% of modern consumers trust advertising, this kind of content can be a game changer for brands.

4. Brand integrity can provide an appealing USP

eCommerce stores have a lot of competition to contend with. So unless your business sells an exclusive, one-of-a-kind product, the chances are you could benefit from finding a way to differentiate yourself from competitors.

Carefully aligning your company’s values with those that matter most to your target audience will provide your business with a unique selling point. If you couple this with dedication and brand integrity, you’ll be able to stand out – even in the most crowded markets!

5. The value people place on brand integrity is increasing

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people re-evaluated the role that companies play in our society. As a result, consumers are on the lookout for trustworthy brands with values that they care about.

Research from Salesforce suggests that 82% of consumers believe trustworthiness matters more now than it did before the pandemic. It also shows that 62% of shoppers have stopped buying from businesses whose values don’t match their own.

Key tactics you can use to build brand integrity

There are countless ways to build integrity for your brand, but here are five key ideas that should be useful to brands across all industries.

1. Always be consistent

Consistency is essential when it comes to brand integrity. If shoppers get one message on your Instagram and then an entirely different one when they visit your store, their perception of your brand falters.

Inconsistencies and mixed messages will cause people to question your brand’s reliability and trustworthiness. However, with so many companies taking an omnichannel approach to eCommerce, this is a mistake that can easily occur.

The modern consumer journey is complex and shoppers connect with your brand across dozens of different touchpoints. To maintain consistency across them all, it is essential that you effectively communicate brand guidelines, brand values and a code of conduct throughout your company.

Marketing, PR, support and sales staff all need to be briefed so that they interact with consumers in a way that aligns with your brand’s values. Ideally, new hires will be educated as part of the onboarding process. Even shareholders and those at the highest level of your corporate structure need to be kept in the loop. This will help ensure that behind-the-scenes decisions remain in line with your public-facing brand.

2. Connect to a higher purpose

Both customers and employees can rally behind a brand with an admirable purpose. This can build integrity and earn the public’s trust.

Often, a brand’s higher purpose will connect its products with a good cause that their key personas care about. For example, outdoor clothing brand Patagonia sets out some commendable core values; it aims to build the best products and protect nature.

The brand’s target audience enjoys exploring nature so these principles are bound to appeal to them. But Patagonia has brand integrity because it followed through on its promise. It builds long-lasting products with sustainable materials. Before Black Friday, its ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ campaign even called on customers to help the environment by consuming less. The message obviously struck a chord as profits jumped by a third that year.

More consumers are turning to brands that take sustainability and social responsibility seriously. Your higher purpose doesn’t have to be complex though. Many companies simply donate to charity.

3. Be human

To build integrity, brands need to prove that they’re trustworthy. Speaking in a genuine and authentic tone of voice can help with this.

Formal, corporate messages just won’t cut it – especially when it comes to social media eCommerce. Using humour, emojis, memes and colloquial terms can remind customers that there are real people behind your brand.

Showcasing behind-the-scenes snapshots and video content can help bring a human touch to your eCommerce marketing too. Carefully choosing influencers to promote your products can play a key role as well.

Show shoppers that your brand has nothing to hide by engaging in unscripted, two-way conversations. Respond to comments, run live streams and host events to demonstrate exactly what your brand is all about.

4. Be honest and transparent – even when things go wrong

Owning up to your mistakes is actually a great way to build integrity and trust. Don’t believe us?

When a customer data breach threatened Target’s brand integrity, the company was honest with customers and quickly apologised. As a result, its reputation remained relatively unscathed.

Similarly, when Taylor Swift criticised Apple’s payment of artists, the brand quickly changed its policy and a senior VP publicly apologised on Twitter. In the aftermath, Swift even appeared in one of the company’s ads.

Consumers know companies aren’t perfect, but they expect brands to own up to their mistakes. So make this part of your brand policy.

5. Listen to consumers and adapt your policies accordingly

To maintain brand integrity, companies need to keep their ear to the ground about developments in society, politics and public opinion.

New information is constantly coming to light and brands that are aware of changing trends can address an issue without losing face. For example, palm oil recently came under the spotlight because of its association with deforestation. As these issues came to light Nutella, which uses palm oil in its chocolate spread, quickly moved to source sustainable, traceable crops.

Recently, when a French politician criticised the company’s use of palm oil, Greenpeace defended the company and publicly praised its progressive actions. As a result, its brand integrity was boosted rather than bruised.

Final thoughts

Building and maintaining integrity can be tricky. While you may make a brand promise with the best of intentions, you don’t always know what’s around the corner.

However, monitoring brand metrics may help sound the alarm before your brand’s integrity disappears.

winning the digital shelf in 2021