Why there is no substitute for authentic marketing

Today consumers want brands that speak to them with transparency and authenticity

Authenticity is a word that of late is being bandied about frequently.

What does it mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary authentic means, “true or genuine; not copied or fake”. Said plainly it means “say it like it is” or “no BS”.

Why has this word become such a common word, particularly when it pertains to the marketing and advertising of products?

The Internet has made corporate authenticity a necessary part of marketing.

The two sides of authenticity are transparency and genuineness. Authenticity through transparency refers to corporations being upfront about who they are, what they stand for and how their products are made.

Things like where the inputs come from, the treatment of workers, the efforts of the company to do good. These are all important. If any of these elements are negative, consumers will figure it out and the bigger the brand the louder the cries.

Authenticity through genuineness refers to what the brand represents and how it connects with the consumer emotionally.

Being able to appeal to consumers functional needs is only a small part of the battle. Speaking to their emotional needs will push a brand much further.

For example, the message of convenience is not as powerful, as a message focused on the result of the convenience, more time to spend with your family, more times to spend on the things you enjoy.

Speak to the pleasure as opposed to the pain.

The driver behind both sides of authenticity are Millennials, who have personified their brands into more than just inanimate objects they buy.

The brands or products they purchase can be statements about who they are and what they represent. If you want to develop a loyal consumer it will take more than just clever ads and nice packaging.

They need to have an emotional connection. If you can develop that emotional connection, that reason for being, you are well on your way to gaining a life long consumer.

I don’t normally name names but in this particular case the unique approach is the essence of authenticity.

McDonald’s Canada in 2012 launched their campaign “Our Food. Your Questions.”

This campaign gave McDonald’s the opportunity for transparency about their food, controlling the message with the correct answer and the message they wanted to convey and responding to individual consumer questions all while taking advantage of the digital marketing monster which is necessary in this day and age.

In the first year of the campaign they answered 20,000 questions, had over two million hits on the “Our Food. Your Questions” part of the McDonald’s Canada site with each visitor spending on average four and a half minutes on the site and reading the responses to an average of 12 questions.

There was clearly word-of-mouth buzz and demonstrated the essence of authenticity and settled many misconceptions about the brand and their food.

The other side of authenticity is about what the brand represents and the message it conveys.

In the past few years the advertisements and marketing campaigns that have generated the most buzz have either used real people, that is people who don’t represent the ultimate but unattainable beauty or thumbing their nose at that very notion.

The Dove Real Beauty campaign used real women, of all different shapes and sizes. This was based on market research of 3000 women, which revealed that only 2% of women considered themselves beautiful.

By using women who didn’t have perfect features nor perfect bodies, they gave women more confidence that they didn’t need to be perfect.

The result was moving the brand from a $2.5 billion brand when the campaign began to a $5 billion brand.

Despite the two different sides of authenticity these campaigns represent, the common thread is the consumer.

Giving each and every consumer a voice and an audience for their questions, fears, ideas, etc. Showing them that you, corporate Canada, cares about what they are selling and the impact on the consumer. That is what sells.

Today’s consumer is looking for brands that speak to them and today authenticity in the form of transparency and genuineness are the keys (see video below).

The information and technology age has made this not just a new method of marketing it has made it a necessity for long term brand health and growth.