A Marketer’s Guide To Authenticity

Simon Pilkington

January 17, 2021

Simon Pilkington

January 17, 2021

It’s one of the biggest buzz words of the past five years, but what does it mean to be “authentic” as a brand?

We all understand what authenticity means. Being real and genuine, perhaps in some ways down to earth. It’s natural to most of us in our day to day life, but when it comes to “authentic marketing” it can be another story completely.

A recent consumer survey found that 90% of consumers found authenticity to be one of the key deciding factors in their preference for brands. 

Even more importantly, 92% of marketers believed that their own content was pushing those authenticity buttons, while 51% of consumers said that less than half of all brands actually create content that is authentic. LOL.

So how do we avoid the trap of inauthentic content (and big marketing egos)?

In this article we are going to dissect the concept of authenticity for brands, and offer some practical tips to help bring your marketing communication a little closer to home.

 

What makes marketing authentic?

Let’s start with the basics.

Authenticity is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the quality of being real and true”. That’s all well and good when we’re verifying the authenticity of a designer handbag, but a little more complicated when dealing with the abstract concept of brand identity.

And that’s exactly it.

Marketing has a reputation for being inauthentic, and business structures are designed to create the illusion of a legal person without any physical substance.

So how do we create a sense of authenticity as a brand…errrm... authentically?

 

Authenticity is connected to your values

Your brand voice needs to speak to people as fellow human beings, and we do that by defining our businesses with a set of values that explain why we operate in a certain way.  It sounds obvious, but now consider that this explanation can be either implicit or explicit.

Defining your values explicitly

Sharing our values explicitly can be a great way to tell our audience that we care about the same things they do.  We are one of them.  We are friend not foe.  We think like them and wouldn’t betray their trust.

The Other Straw are a brand sharing their values explicitly, and seek to connect authentically with their customers by making sustainability central to their product.

By pushing their mission statement at the forefront of their communications, the fact that they are a profit making business takes a backseat to their environmental concerns. Immediately they have a sense of authenticity as there is a person making decisions behind the company with a sense of social responsibility.

Defining your values implicitly

The real power in authentic marketing lies in creating a more nuanced sense of brand identity. This trickles down through all of your communication, your brand voice, narratives, even the approach taken to distribute your content.

To do this successfully you need to do much more than make a bold statement.

Authenticity is a sense of identity that makes you seem approachable and “real” as a business.

Good marketers can authentically connect your brand closely with a niche audience of people who the product or service was designed for.

Being authentic with a niche market is easy when you keep on topic, as sharing relatable content within your sphere feels totally natural.

This is how our own strategy at Hello Social works. We are lucky to be a niche market brand, where our target audience are marketers, managers and business owners.

Our regular meme for social media marketers is a great way to show our audience that we’re a team of real people, who share the same working frustrations as others in our industry. It’s an opportunity to share some of the conversations that happen behind the scenes in an agency, and that there is an underlying sense of humour somewhat more irreverent than perhaps the teeth clenching smiles shown to those difficult clients.

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Next level marketers can authentically communicate with mass market audiences, helping to create a real sense of identity for multinational corporations made up of thousands of individuals.

This means you need to understand broadly shared values across a huge segment of the population. Then take this knowledge and create content that resonates with people on a personal level. Think about the scale of that challenge for a minute!

Our campaign for Uber Eats “Your Local Food Fest” did exactly that. We were looking at the mass market product of takeaway food, and created a nationwide campaign that resonated with individuals across Australia.

 

At the core of this nationwide campaign was the concept of supporting local businesses.  Immediately this brings the concept of authenticity to the brand as it shows that multinational Uber Eats is able to connect with local heroes in your area.

In over 20 intimate video features, UberEats x Hello Social got up close and personal with restaurant owners to hear their personal stories.  Not only are they promoting the authenticity of Uber Eats as a brand connected to the community and supporting small businesses during COVID-19, but also bolstering the authenticity of the restaurateurs themselves by giving them a bigger platform to share their personal origin story.

A double dose!

 

Authenticity is fuelled through interaction

The beauty of social media marketing is that it’s a two way conversation.  While other channels put brands on transmit, social provides an opportunity to connect with your customers on more informal terms.

Community management is so key to the success of your marketing efforts. Your customers and your team can really gain an understanding and rapport with one another.

These days this goes way beyond replies to comments, likes and shares. It’s about user generated content.

The reason why UGC shows your brand to be authentic is that real customers are actively participating in your campaigns, and are proud to showcase your product or service as part of their own identity.

In the FMCG market, beautiful product presentation has never been more important.  And while this may seem superficial, consider that these small touches can be the difference between making your customers feel inspired to post your product, or consume it with indifference.

British nut butter brand Pip & Nut are masters of authenticity.

In addition to sharing the personal story behind their business through regular videos from their founder Pip, they use UGC to reshare content created by happy customers and food influencers.

 

Their team are also diligent comment repliers. Just check out the level of interaction going on their instagram account, with a member of the team taking time to reply to almost every comment.

This kind of connection reassures the customers that there is a real person behind the brand who is not only ready to help their order, but also leave a little note of thanks when they give feedback on their brand.

 

Ready to get real?

So are you ready to give your customers the authentic version of you? Take some time to really define who you are and what you stand for, and detach from the business a little bit.  

Dig into the depths of your heart and ask yourself those questions about what really matters, grab a box of tissues, put on some romantic music, and feel your way to a more authentic brand.

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