5 Ways to Practice Authentic Marketing
Authenticity is a buzzy word. And it’s important. In fact, in a widely quoted international survey by Cohn & Wolfe, it was discovered that 87% of global consumers felt that it was important for brands to “act with integrity at all times,” ranking authenticity above innovation (72%) and product uniqueness (71%) when asked what they valued most in a brand. Shifting the narrative can be tricky, however.
Crafting authenticity with intention can often have the opposite effect when it is forced, overly structured, or planned out. But there’s good news! There are steps that you and your team can take to share your marketing in a more authentic way.
1. Know Your Values and Live Your Mission
Get clear on what is really important to your brand and for what the company stands. Then build or rebuild your mission based on those principles. Every action taken within the company should reflect those values. Simon Mainwaring, the author of We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World, says: "If a brand genuinely wants to make a social contribution, it should start with who they are, not what they do." He goes on to add, "For only when a brand has defined itself and its core values can it identify causes or social responsibility initiatives that are in alignment with its authentic brand story."
To keep things aligned, hire team members who are on board with those values and support the mission, especially on the marketing team. Incorporating staff who are genuinely aligned with the brand’s mission assures that the message will be communicated effectively. That means every piece of copy, every social media post shared, and every press release sent will authentically match the brand’s beliefs and actions.
2. Stay in Your Lane
It’s tempting to hop onto a marketing campaign trend that is performing well for someone else. And by all means, staying abreast of the current culture and trends is important. It’s also worth checking in with your company if a shift is in order. However, there’s no need to jump onto a marketing trend that isn’t really serving your brand or your customers. Avoid the enticement and easy way out of copying someone else’s success.
Instead, ask yourself and your team what message and form of communication will really serve your unique clients, your unique offerings, and your unique brand story. Even if certain elements were learned by watching others, the end result will be more true to you and your brand.
3. Practice What you Preach
It’s easy to talk the talk, but do you walk the walk? What goes on behind the scenes in your office is just as important as what you share on your social media feed and homepage. For example, if you create a campaign about empowering women, make sure that the company really empowers women. That may mean adjusting work policies that support women, or actively hiring more women for influential roles within the company, and ensuring that your business pays women and men equally for equal work. There’s no sense in sharing empowering quotes and images if your office isn’t actively putting these ideas into practice.
Simon Sinek, best known for his viral Ted Talk on starting with “why” also has this to say: “Actions speak louder than words. All companies say they care, right? But few actually exercise that care.” Being a company that actually cares, cultivates that caring, and puts actions into practice that support that caring will set your brand apart from those who just share pretty pictures of what it looks like to care.
4. Update your Images
Fake filters and extreme airbrushing were the norm for online and print marketing for years, and creating an idyllic or aspirational brand was all the rage in the past. In this way, marketing efforts captured the consumer’s perceived desire to improve themselves and to match an idyllic standard of beauty. But no longer.
It’s ok for your brand to want to present a polished and professional look. Certain versions of this can go too far, however. Ask yourself if the images your company shares showcase a false sense of perfection and if that authentically reflects your clients.
Customers want and deserve to feel understood, represented, and affirmed that who they are is enough. Consider letting the stretch marks, cellulite, rolls, and other normalities shine. False perfection and lack of inclusion not only sends a damaging message, it also distances your offerings from your customers. If they can not see and hear themselves in your visual and written marketing, you’re missing the mark. This is why user generated content (UGC) is so popular. Allowing your clients to participate in the marketing process with their own images, captions, and stories can lead to a more authentic representation of their experience.
5. Choose Partners Wisely
This goes for employees, brand ambassadors, marketing staff, and especially public and social campaign partners. If you want someone to share your authentic marketing campaign then make sure they authentically align with your message. We’ve all seen influencer marketing gone awry when a popular person posts an image and copy that was clearly created by someone else. We can tell that that influencer not only doesn’t use the product, but that they don’t really support the message behind the product. While this approach with a very famous person may get a lot of likes, this form of posting will not lead to qualified leads and conversions.
Searching for partners that are truly aligned with the message is key for a more authentic social campaign. Does this take more effort and financial planning than just finding the most popular or commonly used partners? Sure. Is it worth it in the end? I think so. And your clients will certainly think so. Authentic marketing leads to more trust, and trust is a main factor in the like/know/trust factor that leads consumers to make purchases and builds brand loyalty. Trust creates long term clients. Trust breeds rabid fans who refer your products and company. Trust ensures longevity through the ups and downs of business.
So the question isn’t if your company can afford to be more authentic in its marketing. The question is can it afford not to be?
Use a careful eye to be honest about where your brand stands now on including your authentic customer, and the real you. Then commit to taking a step forward to make those images and marketing efforts more inclusive and authentic. Then another step. And then another. Step by step you’ll find the balance between polished and transparent, so that the best foot forward version of the company and a very truthful version are not so different.
Kimmay Caldwell the go-to intimates industry expert with over a decade of experience since 2005. Her vast experience includes bra fitting, retail, marketing and more with a focus on a self love message. She is the founder of Hurray Media and the website, Hurray Kimmay. Find more resources and information on this article at HurrayKimmay.com/expo.