Whether you love or hate the term, authenticity is good for business.
But authenticity as a concept is often misunderstood and its power can be underestimated.
If you can answer yes to the following three questions, it’s probably safe to say you’re of an authentic marketing mindset.
- Does your organisation believe in being open and transparent?
- Would you describe your organisation’s practices as ethical and honest?
- Do you believe you have something genuine to offer your clients or end users?
But what does marketing authentically really mean, and why is it so vital for business success?
Despite what the ‘marketing fluff’ brigade might say, you can’t manufacture desire; to be successful, your product or service needs to meet a genuine, existing need. Authentic marketing is about showing your audience how it does that so that they can make an informed decision. As long as you’ve done your research and considered your marketing proposition relative to the market, there’s no need to manipulate or ‘fluff up’ your offering. However, if you find yourself going for the hard-sell approach or resorting to fear-inducing tactics, it’s probably time to revisit your strategy.
True transparency, whether it’s being honest about your service’s limitations or saying sorry when you’ve made a mistake, is only possible when you have a clear understanding of your brand position and who you’re marketing to.
I recently discovered Les Mills BodyBalance classes. While convinced by the ad that it would improve my mind and body, I was a little more sceptical of the claim it would improve my entire life.
Most people respect that services have limitations. They also respect brands who own their mistakes. This article has some great and not so great examples of big brand apologies, including KFC’s humour-laden ‘FCK. We’re sorry’ poster campaign.
But it’s not about total disclosure either. You don’t need to publicise all your shortcomings or personal points of view. As Nathan Levi, chief marketing officer of TotallyMoney, says: “Often brands need to shut up.” Having a clearly defined marketing strategy helps you navigate decisions around what to say and when.
Gender stereotyping is one of my marketing bugbears, but here’s where the line between ‘authentic’ and ‘inauthentic’ gets tricky. Discrimination has been hailed as the dark side of targeted marketing more than once, yet if we don’t target our marketing to reach a relevant audience, we can become guilty of spamming.
The best way to avoid inadvertent stereotyping is to consider your reasons for choosing someone of a particular gender, age, nationality or race and be able to foresee how any representations could be interpreted. Who can forget Dove’s shocking error in judgement when they published an ad showing a black woman turning into a white woman?
Making exaggerated or false claims isn’t just disingenuous; it could get you in serious legal trouble. Also, if you’re deliberately badmouthing or unintentionally plagiarising your competitors, you’re not going to develop the credibility and trust you need to sustain client loyalty. Take the example from Sega; they could have played it so much better, but they went for the lowball.
It might be entertaining in the short-term, but in the long-term it’s more productive to develop a more unique positioning statement; if that involves cooperating or even collaborating with your competitors, even better. This non-strategic approach will, paradoxically, make your marketing more strategic.
Authentic marketing is not just another buzz phrase to inauthentically add to your communications; it’s a strategy which connects what you do and say to your specific goals and offering – and that’s the most responsible and sustainable marketing strategy you can have.