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Scepticism, apprehension and mistrust – the legacy of a year that saw increased ad blocking and yet more concerns about data privacy. So, as brands tentatively dip a toe into 2017 it’s time to shake off the shackles of uncertainty and build consumer confidence through intelligent, courageous and most importantly authentic marketing campaigns.

Now is the time to go back to basics, canvas opinion and rebuild credibility from the complaints department up. They say ‘honesty is the best policy’ and brands that openly admit their mistakes (‘flawsome’ as the trend has been named), will cultivate stronger consumer relationships, especially if they also prioritise social responsibility.

Consumers are seeking to reconnect with straight talking, shopper-centric brands that carve responsive solutions from real consumer insight. After all, successful marketing is more often than not a result of more meaningful brand/consumer connections.Without doubt, one sure fire way to do this is by being authentic and telling the truth. Expose vulnerability and openly admit that it is the consumer who makes a brand a success not the strapline. Smartphone savvy Millennials are a shrewd breed of bloggers and brand ambassadors who undeniably make or break brand campaigns on a daily basis. Their word of mouth, online reviews and loyalty is now more important than ever. Social media has shifted the balance of power from marketing campaigns that once controlled brand perception to consumers willing to share personal information but with the expectation that their enhanced brand experience will be rewardingly relevant and unique to them.

However, social media, far from being a brand’s worst enemy is also its biggest asset. Yes, there may be nowhere for brands to hide, but social media also offers direct access to unlimited and uncensored consumer opinion – a rich insight vein that is always on tap. Especially for brands prepared to make the effort to communicate in an honest and transparent way.

Being authentic may not feel like a brand new approach to marketing but for many years advertising campaigns have been purposefully ‘creative’ with the truth. Aspiration won with realism a poor second place. It’s the old magic trick. We focus on the hand that creates the illusion and we don’t see the other hand switch the cards.

For brands to succeed in today’s unconvinced climate, it’s time for them to show both hands, the good and the not so great.

EDF set out to tell the truth in earnest. A recent price promise campaign alerted customers on occasions when choosing a competitor supplier would save them money. This honest approach engaged with consumers on a remarkably sincere level offering EDF the highest retention rates on its products and even prompting a respectable percentage of customers to remain with the ‘trustworthy’ brand despite paying more for their energy.

TSB also took brand transparency to the next level. CMO, Nigel Gilbert describes how “We created a website called ‘Truth and Banking’ where we described exactly how we make money. This was both unusual and truthful,” and he claims as a result the brand ’s reputation rose considerably.

However, a word of warning, brand orthodoxy isn’t about being righteous or saintly. It’s about single-mindedly defining what your brand truths are and delivering them through credible and respectful executions. Buying a brand is an act of trust made by an empowered consumer. You may not be cheapest, biggest, fastest, or even the most ethical brand on the planet, but if you start with what you really are, acknowledge any weaknesses and bravely listen to genuine opinion ‘warts and all’, then you have a set of incredibly valuable foundations on which to build an authentic and engagingly trustworthy brand.

If you’d like to read more about successful marketing campaigns built on key brand truths this blog summarises five outstanding examples:

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