“The true measure of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” – John Wooden
There may be no greater personal indictment than to be considered a fraud or fake. We teach children to live up to their word, keep their promises and take responsibility when falling short. We all know the saying “actions speak louder than words” and when others act in a manner inconsistent with those words we judge them accordingly.
In business, brands face a new level of scrutiny. Over the last few years more and more companies have sought to live their purported values only to be reminded by consumers that actions matter and words are not enough. The divide between words and actions is so great that far too many efforts are classified as virtue signaling and greenwashing than as real acts of change.
Food delivery apps Uber Eats and DoorDash spent millions on airtime and production for Super Bowl ads, touting their benefits for local restaurants. These companies received harsh backlash online. For example, AdAge tweeted, “… it’s hard to separate the cuteness overload to the reality of the fees delivery services charge restaurants and consumers.”
It was just a few months ago that Major League Baseball was heralded as champions of civic morals when they pulled the All-Star game from Georgia over their anti-voting rights legislation. Now, MLB is facing criticism for considering a distribution deal with Barstool Sports, an organization with a lengthy and sordid history of questionable values. Whether MLB cares about being on the side of right is seemingly a question of economic opportunity more than moral compass.
Today, the 4As released a comprehensive report on the perils of corporate greenwashing environmental concerns. The detailed white paper explores the evolution of corporate sustainability and the perils of promoting positions that may not stand up to scrutiny.
In measuring values there are a series of critical data points to understand:
- Values Awareness. How many consumers are aware of the values related to their brand?
- Values Consideration. Is that awareness leading to consideration of a purchase?
- Values Equity. Brands are businesses, they must be able to attribute values to revenue.
A through-line for each is Values Authenticity. Simply put, do consumers believe you are real or fake? Do they know MLB wants to be seen as standing for equality but will sell that out at the first chance to make an extra buck? Do they see every auto manufacturer promoting sustainability while using offsets and other tricks of the marketing trade to cover for harsh business realities?
Are you a real one? Or are you a business that is authentic when it is convenient or will your audience say you are in the movement not just trying to parlay a moment into money?
Understanding Values Authenticity is the first step for real change. Authenticity is not easy, it takes commitment, action and time. Each one has its own challenges and can be a barrier to being considered real. However, the alternative is a brand that consumers see as a fraud. When viewed through that lens it becomes easy to see why understanding and acting on Values Authenticity is critical for future growth.