Brand authenticity is a term you hear a lot, but not everyone knows how to define exactly what the term means. Typically, you know it when you see it — and when you don't.

For example, Spirit Airlines was in the hot seat recently for automating their social media platform, everything from posts to replies. Customers looking for that personal touch got bombarded with canned responses. Yikes.

The airline completely missed the point of social media genuine connections between consumers and authentic brands.

But, what exactly is an authentic brand and how do you cultivate one? Discover the answers in easy step-by-step instructions below.

What is brand authenticity?

Essentially, an authentic brand is one that has clear values and sticks to them every step of the way. In practice, brand authenticity embodies three traits: honesty, heritage and a commitment to high quality.

People want the truth from their brands. Shoppers want to trust brand messages and feel like they're communicating with an empathetic, genuine person not a huge corporation. Authenticity isn't just an important tenet in the branding and marketing world. It matters just as much to shoppers and is often touted as one of the top 10 most desired brand values.

Plus, cultivating brand authenticity pays off in the long run. It converts sales and consistently creates word of mouth buzz.

63 percent of consumers across 12 global markets prefer to buy from a company they consider to be authentic over competitors, according to a new study from Cohn & Wolfe. Once they've made the purchase, 6 out of 10 would recommend an authentic brand to their friend and families, too.

How to create an authentic brand

Remember: Brand authenticity is a composite of honesty, heritage and commitment to high-quality products. So to create an authentic brand, simply cultivate those three traits below.

1. Encourage honesty

Honesty is always the best policy, but that doesn’t mean it's easy. Learn how to instill honesty in your team:

  • Make sure your team knows you should always fess up to mistakes — especially to customers.
  • Acknowledge your weaknesses, then detail how you plan to fix them. Better yet, ask your users how they'd like you to make it better.
  • Put it all out there! Don't try to sweep anything under the rug. Bad stories will always emerge in this age of digital transparency.

2. Promote heritage

To foster heritage, your brand needs to have a defined brand voice and tell a consistent story. If you're always slightly tweaking the story of how your brand came to be, that's a problem. It looks like you're adulterating the truth.

The easiest way to promote heritage is to:

  • Write a fact-sheet detailing the five W's (who, what, when, where and why) of your brand's origin. Share this with new workers and anyone doing a media interview.
  • Develop a consistent brand voice. Create a content style guide, detailing your tone, voice, vision and personality in 4-5 pages.
  • Share your story through advertisements and PR story highlights.

3. Commit to high-quality products

Authentic brands consistently deliver high-quality products and stand behind them. To achieve this, try the below:

  • Implement guarantees. A great example of this is Trader Joe's return policy. They want you to try their funky, new products, and if you don't like your new wacky purchase, you can return it.
  • Create a structured system to listen, apologize and then delight unhappy customers.
  • Make bold promises and fulfill them every single time.