Your consumers are Haley Joel Osment. Your brand, Bruce Willis.
They see you in a way that even you can’t see yourself. Their sixth sense picks up on every campaign ghost and incongruence between what your brand represents and the messaging it chooses to stand behind. It’s all out there, just waiting to be seen.
Plain and simple—and in the event that you don’t appreciate late 90s analogies—the degree of truth behind your brand’s words is a powerful thing. And not just that, it’s a necessary thing.
Consider after all, the quickness with which audiences are willing to call out fake news. Authenticity has become an obsession. And for good reason, considering you can hop online and likely find every case for every argument in conjunction with every happening going on in the world.
Whether true or false, the information is out there.
For a brand, this means that in addition to competition, you’re now up against unlimited knowledge. Customers can afford to be picky and voice their opinions openly against digital marketing efforts that just don’t align. So, how authentic is your marketing?
No Steps Forward, Two Steps Back
Customers and organizations have been calling brands out on their BS for years now. It’s not a new concept. PETA has made a name for themselves doing it. And as a brand, you’re probably not going to find too many people that’ll argue inauthentic motives behind what PETA represents.
Say, for example, you’re a skincare company running ads across your social channels. In those ads, you drive home the importance of natural beauty; of quality ingredients and treating your skin well.
When you look at the ingredients label on the back of your products though, the majority of what’s listed are materials that are hard-to-pronounce and synthetic. How do you expect people to not question the messaging across your digital marketing campaigns, when what your product actually is is so easy for everyone to see?
One of the ways in which brands will often fall into this trap is through trending topics. Be it a celebrity death or national holiday, many will look to them as opportunities to further the reach of what they have to sell.
Maybe this means you’re McDonald’s, inverting your logo in support of International Women’s Day. Or you’re Coca-Cola, launching a #MakeItHappy campaign to combat cyberbullying and instead promote positivity [and the inevitable happiness that comes from drinking an ice cold Coke].
Is it nice that these brands show support for movements? Sure. Does it really make a difference on behalf of those movements that a fast food joint and sugary soft drink stand behind them through the display of self-serving marketing alone? Probably not.
And for brands, the benefit isn’t always there either. In fact, inauthentic marketing will more often than not backfire once customers see the through to the motives behind your efforts.
With Your Brand on Display, Customers Turn to Fans As a Result of Authenticity
What’s actually refreshing in the market of today is a brand that walks the walk as much as it does talk the talk. This means putting your money where your mouth is.
Real effort isn’t in the ten minutes it’ll take your graphic designer to create some punchy visual in response to something that’s trending on Twitter. It’s in the living and breathing of what your brand stands for across every digital marketing checkpoint along the way.
One brand that serves as an example of this time and time again is Patagonia. At their heart, they believe in quality and environmental responsibility. So much so, that they’ll even drive campaigns that go against their bottom line.
They have an entire sub-site dedicated to Worn Wear. And on this site, you can find all kinds of tips, tricks, and instructions for repairing your Patagonia gear. As a retail company, it may seem counterintuitive to encourage your customers not to purchase new gear and instead, fix up what they already have in hand. As a company run by people who truly believe in what the brand stands for, however, it makes complete sense.
Another common example of this similar mindset can be tied to REI’s #OptOutside campaign. In its infancy, the movement started in correlation with Black Friday. Standing behind their brand persona that advocates for an active and eager embrace of the outdoors, they closed all of their locations nationwide. Rather than feed into the materialism of the day, they encouraged customers to get outside and share their experiences.
These types of displays on behalf of a brand are what truly turn your customers into lifelong fans. People, after all, choose to align with products that reflect their lifestyle or the lifestyle they want to lead. If they can’t see themselves carried throughout every aspect of your digital marketing strategy in an authentic way, they won’t think twice about finding a brand in which they can.
Final Thoughts: How Authentic is Your Marketing?
What are some of your favorite authentic brand messaging examples? Shoot a tweet to @mabblytribe.