In a time where consumers have lost trust in advertising and hold brands to a higher standard, authentic marketing is the most valuable strategy a brand can have.
- By definition, marketing is not authentic, it is used by companies to showcase themselves in the best light and it usually involves the omission of details that might be negative for the brand image.
- But now this has been spun on its head with authenticity and honesty being powerful tools in a company’s arsenal, in order to connect more with their target audience.
What is authenticity?
The main purpose of authenticity is to gain consumer trust, this is something that no amount of fanciful marketing can buy or win a brand, this is earned over time. Consumers now want more than just quality, price, and convenience, they want values and honesty.
On the face of it, it is fairly easy to achieve sales through the use of promotions however, getting consumers to believe in a brand, demands a more genuine connection. This is where authentic marketing comes into play.
An international survey carried out by Cohn & Wolfe
“found that 87% of global consumers felt that it was important for brands to “act with integrity at all times,” ranking authenticity above innovation (72%) and product uniqueness (71%) when asked what they valued most in a brand.”
The equation is quite simple really, if a brand presents itself as relatable to its target audience, that audience will feel more connected to the brand.
Why the interest in authentic marketing?
1. Consumers are overwhelmed with ads.
With the volume of advertising consumers are exposed to, they have learnt how to block out messages that do not provide them with value or that they are unable to relate to. Using authentic marketing allows brands to stand out in a sea of advertising so that target audiences will tune into the brand and their message.
2. Consumers can identify brands that are lying.
Modern consumers are very clued in on deceptive advertising, and no matter how smart a brand thinks they have presented an ad, their target audience will recognise if it is not authentic.
CEO of Brandish Insights, Josh Braaten states:
“with all the fake news out there today, consumers are getting more discerning than ever and have less patience for anyone who is stretching the truth or trying to deceive them.”
3. Consumers are paying attention to brand values.
A brand’s value and message will be more evident through authentic marketing. Consumers, especially young consumers, are more likely to associate themselves with a brand that shares their values, and authenticity will place a brand in a position to win these consumers over.
Implementing authentic marketing:
1. Outline brand values.
The first step is to identify what the brand stands for, this should then be used as a guide for the rest of the marketing strategy.
Questions to consider are: Why does the brand exist? Why does the brand matter?
Lots of brands fall into the trap of presenting what they think will portray authenticity but consumers can clearly see when there is no substance or evidence to back up these values.
Chipotle is very effective in doing this. They demonstrate their commitment to serving food made from the best ingredients that are prepared through ethical means. This is stated on their website, reinforced on in-store signs and packaging, and across their social media.
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2. Be transparent.
Transparency is the most effective display of authenticity, as brands can provide their consumers with an inside look into how operations take place to create a product or service. Demonstrating this to a target audience will also add credibility to the brand, and as a result, brand loyalty should increase.
Similarly, while a brand’s marketing and advertising efforts are in place to showcase the brand in its best light, being too polished can have the opposite effect and can make the brand appear inauthentic. Demonstrating a company’s vulnerability is a good way to eliminate this as it humanises the brand. By declaring a brands wins and loses to consumers, it can strengthen the connection with them.
3. Hire employees who embody the brand.
Employees form a huge part of promoting a brand, therefore a good concept for marketers to consider is to ‘hire for attitude and train for skill’. It is important for an employer to understand that people can be taught how to sell a product or service, and they can be taught to follow company policy however, it is almost impossible to alter someone’s values and attitudes.
Efforts in authentic marketing are wasted if a brand’s employee attitudes are not in line with the values being promoted. A brand wants to connect with their key audience through a shared interest in similar values, this will not be achievable if a brand is not doing the same with their employees.
Marketers have a lot of challenges ahead of them, as consumers are becoming increasingly value-driven, less tolerating of insincere advertising, and more interested in transparency. This makes evident that authentic marketing is not just good practice, but a necessity to stay competitive with other brands.