(Originally posted in The Marketing Scope by Jack Holt, Mattr CEO)
If there’s one quality marketers desire from their content, it’s the perception of authenticity. We live in a time when being “fake” is the most heinous of all crimes— to be perceived as fake is to be shunned, discounted, and cast aside.
Despite the buzz, it’s tough to tell exactly what constitutes authenticity in brands. The only sure thing is that authenticity brings in money: Consumers are willing to spend money in support of “real” brands.
So how do marketers achieve that genuine persona when consumers balk at anything homogenized as a contrived sales pitch?
The Difference Between Authenticity and a Sales Pitch
Last week, I spoke with the marketing lead at New Zealand-based gear manufacturer Minaal. Minaal’s team members are incredibly passionate about adventure travel. Unsurprisingly, they are fiercely protective of their brand’s persona: “We’ll never jeopardize our brand’s authenticity by doing something salesy,” they told me.
If Minaal is any indication of the future of marketing, advertisers will need to change their tactics fast. Authenticity is binary: Consumers see a message as either a genuine expression or a sales pitch.
The reality is that no amount of creativity can replace sincerity. We can create new ad platforms and novel content strategies, but consumers have become incredibly savvy about sales schemes. Across industries, marketing spend is growing by leaps and bounds, but click-through rates remain dismal.
Sometimes, it seems the more we strive for authenticity, the more we fail. But there are several keys to this holy grail of marketing — just be sure to employ them with sincerity. Here’s how:
1. Get the word out, one person at a time.
Minaal is off to a solid start, partly because its marketing strategy involves meeting people and talking to them. Face-to-face interaction like this conveys a sincerity that encourages believers to tell their friends about a brand. But, of course, the old word of mouth doesn’t scale well. Under a Kickstarter campaign, Minaal rallied more than 1,600 people behind its brand.
It’s possible to attain scale without turning to big-name celebrities who are perceived as inauthentic. Consider micro-influencers — passionate people with large social followings — to add touches of authenticity to your brand.
2. Return to your roots.
Consumers love a brand that appreciates its heritage. In one study, consumers felt jeans made by Levi Strauss in its original San Francisco location exuded the brand’s “true essence.” Consumers who learned about jeans made in a newer Levi Strauss factory perceived the product as significantly less authentic. Further, the individuals who rated the San Francisco jeans were willing to pay more for the “authentic” ones.
While returning to an original factory or location may not be an option for all brands, marketers should highlight how their brands stay true to their early days. Just as we feel a warm nostalgia looking back at old family photos, we also feel an attachment to the brands of yesteryear.
3. Harness social platforms.
Big brands can gain authenticity by integrating social platforms — like Salesforce’s Radian6 — with customer relationship management databases. Doing this targets current, happy customers. By showcasing “real” people, brands can make social media followers feel that those brands represent them. Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches — part of its Campaign for Real Beauty — yielded more than 114 million views in a month’s time and, further, 4 billion PR and media impressions (and counting).
4. Show your age.
Consumers want fresh, updated brand images, but that doesn’t mean they want their brands to be newcomers to the market. Pabst Blue Ribbon beer has made quite the comeback among younger generations. Every beer’s logo emphasizes that PBR was established in 1844 — just 68 years after our nation’s birth. Emphasize that your brand has withstood the test of time, and consumers are more likely to see it as the “real deal.”
Ironically, it seems the key to selling products is, well, not trying too hard to sell them. Authenticity isn’t easy, but it’s the surest way to skyrocket your brand’s image — and its sales.