By: Ray Lapoint
What is Authenticity?
Trapped behind cell phone screens and computer monitors, users of the digital world have become far removed from reality. So far removed that the future of marketing may very well depend on the focus and concentration of a single attribute. Authenticity.
Authenticity means being real or genuine. When thinking about personal authenticity, individuals believe this creates an opportunity for them to portray themselves in a unique, realistic way and withhold from the force of influence of others. Authenticity, as it relates to brand identity generates a similar perception in the eyes of their audiences. People want to feel as if their favorite brands are speaking directly to their personal values and beliefs. In other words, they want to have a connection with brands.
Advertisers and marketers believe that practicing authenticity and even transparency through marketing and advertising help customers connect with a brand, stimulate brand trust and help overcome consumer skepticism toward ads according to the American Marketing Association. This includes everything from your website, your social media interactions, partnerships, and campaign agendas.
The average customer is smarter than we think.
When thinking about connecting with your consumers, your goal is to have them perceive your brand as genuine or real. Given the infinite spider web of the digital landscape and incredibly connected social world, audiences are no longer reacting to generic marketing and unrealistic expectations. People don’t react to “glossified” advertising anymore. Examples of this can be seen in the fast-food industry where the delivered product does not resemble the advertised result. We have all been there. Those fast food joints neglect the presentation factor when crafting delicious meals. The food insufficiently captures the experience leading to an unhappy customer.
Consumers have ditched the ideals of perfection and have started craving something better. They crave authenticity. Buying into a brand is more than buying a product or service. It is a mutually beneficial relationship between consumers and a brand. A brand produces a genuine promise through a product or service, and consumers give their continued business in return.
It almost seems as if some marketing firms today have an agenda to maximize profit regardless of unrealistic product promises. For example, we have all experienced buying a product that has not met our expectations. Popular trends give evidence to this phenomenon like “Expectation vs. Reality” memes.
Lack of genuine endorsements on social media
Brand ambassadors and paid influencers are great for promoting a brand’s image and products. Not only is this an opportunity for media influencers to share personal experiences and curate new content, but it also illustrates a brand’s identity. Although these paid sponsorships generate mutually beneficial relationships for an influencer and a brand, in some cases, these relationships are solely based on follow-count and not sharing similar values or beliefs.
Say a strictly vegan-based brand wants to hire a rising influencer to promote their new line of vegan, sustainable and dairy-free milk to their 1 million followers. The brand might think it is a grand idea to work with them in promoting their product for their high follower count. Meanwhile, the influencer posts content of them grilling and eating animal meat and wearing real animal fur on their social media. In this example, it is evident this influencer does not share the same values as the brand which could lead to potential upset with customers of the brand as well.
Failed social media endorsement
When social media influencers or brand ambassadors endorse a product, their content needs to be genuine or real otherwise it may have a negative impact. Bootea, a fitness and detox brand had to make their mistake first in order to learn from it. The brand had partnered with Scott Disick who is known for his appearance in the reality TV series Keeping up with the Kardashians. Disick missed the mark when he posted on Instagram with the direct instructions given to him by the brand. This shows the audience that he did not generate a personal caption putting the brand in an embarrassing position.
Some viewers of these marketing advertisements may see these as misleading or ungenuine endorsements for products. Can these products keep their promises when they pay influencers to read a generic script and sample a product? How do we know if their support is genuine? It is an uphill battle for public relations professionals to find influencers that align fairly well with the brand’s voice, yet they are crucial in securing an authentic relationship with your target audience.
Where does that leave the future of marketing?
Connecting with consumers has never been more of a challenge for brands. How are future marketers supposed to combat this likely dark path of falsehood? Leveraging authenticity to attract existing and new customers is critical. An easy way to practice this is to diversify your content and implement strategies different from that currently in the marketing world. Numb is the feeling you get when something is no longer affecting you. Similar to recycled marketing approaches, you aren’t getting the same response as you once did thus, calling for a fresh angle.
The customer-centric model requires “a deep understanding of the social, financial, emotional and intellectual needs of the buyer at certain stages, along with what they enjoy outside of the buyer’s journey” says Forbes Councils Member, Jessica Scanlon.
Understanding what your customers want and needs are undoubtedly important to know, however understanding their beliefs and values give way to more opportunities for growth and acceptance. Utilizing what we know about our audiences can help us as marketers gauge the brand tone and voice we want to portray. Not only that, we need to understand the simple human truths and connect them to the values behind our brand.