In savage economic times, a company’s bottom line is on the line. External factors beyond a company’s control affect its performance, including customer buying habits. However, one thing that is within a company’s control is branding. And we’ve noticed that more and more top brass realize how important it is to get branding right. Usually, it all starts with a great name.
So, in naming, how does a company stay competitive and connected with customers in an economic environment that seems so unreal?
The answer, it seems to many, is to “get real” — really real, as in using the word “real” in a company name to communicate authenticity, which leaves Zinzin reeling. As we see it, to be truly authentic, a brand name must demonstrate, not explain its realness.
Check out this very real naming trend we call the “Get Real” movement and why it’s really gotta go.
The “Get Real” movement
More than ever, people crave authentic brands. They want to know they can trust a company or a product — that it aligns with their values in an honest, consistent and real way. Real — there it is, and somewhere along the naming line it became the four-letter word of choice for brands desperate to explain to the public just how authentic they are.
One big problem is that authenticity — in life and naming — means never having to say you’re authentic. If you do, you instead risk being branded a phony. Nevertheless, here are some real examples of brands that tout “realness” right in the name:
Brands getting really real, real quick
- BeReal. Your Friends For Real. social media app
- The RealReal luxury consignment
- The REAL Company holding company fund
- The Real syndicated talk show
- Real Brands CBD wellness products
- Brand Real brand strategy book
- The Real Housewives franchise
- REAL Skateboards
- Realgood Foods Co. frozen foods
Honest Tea & the movement towards authenticity
One of the earliest brands in the “Get Real” movement was Honest Tea. Founded in 1998 by a socially conscious entrepreneur, the brand aimed to be supremely authentic with both its name and original tagline, “Be Real. Get Honest.”
In 2011, Coca-Cola purchased Honest Tea, at which point the brand messaging shifted. The same year, the Washington Post explored this branding shift for Honest Tea and other industries in a piece called, Businesses find they can’t grow without branding.
The article leads off with the story of Honest Tea ditching its old tagline “Get Real. Be Honest.” for the new one, “Nature Got It Right. We Put It in a Bottle.” Ironically, for the beverage maker to really “Get Real,” they had to ditch their old approach of telling people to get real, because (we repeat!) true authenticity means never having to say you’re authentic. (They were also honing their message after expanding into new markets thanks to new owner Coca-Cola.) The Post article explains:
In the Washington area, Honest Tea is far from alone in seeking a brand make-over. The business of image enhancement is heating up in the region — and not just among companies selling consumer products. Government contracting firms are adopting new nomenclatures that create buzz. Charities are changing their names to reflect new missions. Trade associations are updating their logos and tag lines to remain relevant to members…
Decades ago, branding was mainly confined to consumer companies touting their products in the marketplace. Advertising agencies often would introduce iconic brands — Betty Crocker, Chef Boyardee, Uncle Ben’s — made up to convey homey images that had no relation to the conglomerates behind the campaigns. Today, experts say, branding is based on authenticity. It has expanded to tie together the product with the companies’ business practices, values, culture, reputation and sometimes leaders’ personality. Think Apple Computer and Facebook.
These days consumers are driving the public perception of companies, offering their sometimes not-so-flattering reviews of products and services through blogs, Web sites and social media. Companies are responding to the public’s demand for transparency; in this era of the 24/7 news cycle, consumers no longer are tolerating firms that represent one thing in their branding but demonstrate something entirely different in news coverage, experts say.
Of course, cynical companies will continue to try to have their honest cake and eat it, too. As the famous and widely used anonymous quote goes: “The most important thing is honesty. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
So what does it mean to be an authentic brand?
An authentic brand is true to itself. It knows what it stands for, embodied by its brand positioning, and everything it does consistently maps to and suports that positioning. Authenticity, like a great name, is a quality your brand can only demonstrate, not explain. What you fail to demonstrate directly you have to explain, and that’s called advertising.
To further illustrate this point, we turn to a fact-filled 2021 Forbes article by Michael Georgiou, co-founder of the app design and development company Imaginovation. His article is called How And Why To Build Brand Authenticity, and he writes:
Your brand’s authenticity has never been more relevant.
According to recent Stackla data (via SocialMediaToday), 90% of customers mentioned authenticity as an important factor in deciding which brands they like and support.
There are many reasons why I believe brand authenticity is crucial for winning customers.
Catering To Younger Generations
Millennials and Gen Z comprise an army of over 139 million people in the U.S. Research suggests that Gen Z and millennials give preference to brands that are “real and organic” and not “perfect and well-packaged.”
Research from DoSomethingStrategic (via MarketingDive) found that two-thirds of Gen Z respondents had “an increase in positive feelings about a brand because of an association with a social cause.” They want companies to support issues they care about. Brands cannot afford to ignore the demands of these generations and lose out on customers.
Creating Emotional Connections
Genuine ideas and messaging often touch people’s hearts. They connect customers to a brand emotionally.
According to research covered in a 2015 Harvard Business Review article, “fully connected” customers are worth 52% more than “highly satisfied” customers.
Rising Above The Noise
The business world is overloaded with information. It’s not easy to filter genuine messaging of authentic brands.
Customers often use ad blockers and anti-spam solutions to filter messages. If you take care to be authentic in your words and actions, your customers will do your marketing for you via word-of-mouth.
Word of mouth begins, of course, with a great brand name. If your name is lame, why would anybody want to share it? And if your name is forgettable, then, by definition, people will probably forget to share it.
Authentic brands & Gen Z
Gen Z, in particular, doesn’t suffer fools or phonies. They know when something’s “sus.” (Such as using Merriam-Webster to define “sus.” See what we did there?) And they’re onto corporate brands that pander to their generation — a topic explored in this Zinzin blog post: How Do You Do Fellow Kids? Gen Z-speak in naming and branding. Here’s a salient snippet:
It’s not enough for brands to just control your life. They want you to know that they’re one of you, too.
The social media era has ushered in a new kind of culture commanded by Generation Z. And with it, a new class of corporate vultures desperate to keep up, swooping in to scavenge morsels of relatability. This is, of course, a game they cannot win. Companies are almost always behind the curve, and even when they get closer to the curve with especially “quirky” or “edgy” strategies, their Gen Z audience typically remains skeptical and cynical.
Lastly, some “real” idioms
- the real deal
- the real thing
- get real
- it’s been real
- the real McCoy
- in real time
- in real life (IRL)
- real talk for the real world
- a real doozy
- the struggle is real
- for real, y’all
- for real?
- keep it real
Thanks, it’s been real
Since the dawn of Zinzin time (A.D. 2011), we’ve said that great names demonstrate your brand positioning. When a company uses “real” in their name, they’re explaining to you that they are authentic, genuine, trustworthy, etc. instead of showing you how they’re authentic. The difference, really, is proof. However, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s real in today’s world with social media “fake news,” fake “fake news,” and deepfake videos. So, it makes sense that people are hungrier than ever for authentic experiences and emotional connections. And real behavior, as opposed to just “real” verbiage. As author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, would say, people don’t buy what you do, they buy into why you do what you do.
Zinzin predicts that in another dozen years, authenticity will be a hallmark of good naming and branding. Technology products will evolve and become more sophisticated, but they will still need great names. A new generation of consumers will arise that will be more savvy than ever, and they will bristle at the notion of being reduced to mere “consumers” of goods. Until then, when it comes to your company or product’s name and primary messaging, keeping it real is a must. It’s something you just can’t fake.