People looking to be more authentic are often told, “to thine own self be true.” But Shakespeare’s famous advice isn’t always easy to understand, let alone follow – and especially not for brands. Marketing campaigns aren’t people – they’re ideas, created and supported by large groups of people. How can a concept like that be ‘authentic?’
Thoughtfully, that’s how! We know marketing campaigns can be authentic – we’ve all seen a few, and we know them when we see them. Authenticity, that feeling that a message is honest, from a real place, with no trickery or hidden motives, is not easy to cultivate, but it’s not impossible either. We’ve provided a few guidelines below which can help your brand seem less like a corporate monolith and more accessible and approachable.
Give Your Brand A Personality
Authenticity is an aspect of identity – without an identity, without a history, without a style, nothing can be authentic. And the most direct way to establish an identity is to have a distinct personality – a way of speaking, a way to thinking, a look, or an attitude. Adding voiceover to one of your videos, for example. Consider how the script is written and look for a voice actor that compliments the tone of your message. Think about ways to interject a personality to your online resources too. Try incorporating a little lighthearted humour into your next tool rather than the traditional experience, or take it one step further and turn it into a game. Always keep in mind your end goal and if your brand already has a personality, make sure that it remains consistent.
Social media is another great platform to showcase your brand’s personality. An engaging short video, or animated pieces are sharable and gets people talking. So does a well written article or well designed and insightful infographic. Everything that your customers experience – your visuals, content and customer service – should be consistent across all of your channels. Real people have a consistent tone, so they appreciate when marketing feels natural. If you can create a stable personality, your brand will be seen as less of a collection of projects and more of an actual persona.
Be Human, Be Real
If you’re going for authenticity, you have to think about what you’re authentically being. If you’re selling luxury lifestyle goods, you might want to be a little more exclusive than folksy. But for most brands, the ideal is to reveal yourself as human after all – as real, relatable people trying to make the world a better place, as we all are. And one of the defining features of real humans is that they speak like real humans – they joke, they chat, and they don’t usually issue broad, corporate statements. Thanks to social media, branded content appears in the same context as messages from friends – the more you can blend in with personal conversations, the more personable you’ll be, and the more your words will be taken as genuine.
An interesting thing about authenticity is that it, like humans, isn’t always perfect. When choosing stock photography, lean away from the unnatural, posed shots and go for the more relatable and candid options. Real people aren’t always perfectly-lit models. When explaining a complex topic, think about adding helpful tips or frequently asked questions. Be transparent – we understand you may not get it, so we’re here to help – is a message appreciated by many. Being open, natural, and honest are deeply likable human characteristics, and those that any brand would do well to adopt.
Consider the cliché image: a healthy, go-getting senior enjoying his or her retirement by playing golf and tennis now that he or she has the time. It’s a lovely idea, and absolutely true for some, but for the vast majority, it’s just that – an idea. If a friend told you about a new investment plan that would help you retire early and go parasailing, you’d probably chuckle at them, because really, where did they get the idea that that was on your radar? It’s not authentically you, and anyone who would think that is clearly selling you something, not speaking to your best interests.
How do you make sure that what your brand is offering will appeal to the masses and remain authentic feeling? Offer some way for your user to customize and tailor the content to what best suits them. Ask them questions, let them choose between options, sort, filter, etc. A custom experience will make your user feel like they are being listened to and really being considered – not just being placed into a genre like everyone else.
Talk With People, Not At People
Once upon a time, marketing meant taking out ads and issuing statements to millions of people – a one-way flow of information. But today, the interactive nature of the web and the growing importance on digital marketing, means that one-way street is now two-way. If you want to be authentic, and you care about serving your customers, then start talking to them online. You can answer their questions, pre-empt their complaints, and also have fun – just like a friend. You can listen to their feedback and comments, and if you can’t remedy their situation, you can apologize with tact and humility.
Best of all, all of this proactive customer service can be seen by anyone. Good customer service has always been its own form of marketing – now, word of mouth is preserved for all to see online. Providing solid, humane service finally has the visibility of traditional marketing methods, and being an honest dealer, can have its moment in the spotlight.
Authenticity isn’t something you can fake. You can’t only ‘appear’ authentic – you must take stock of who your brand really is, and embrace it. What is your main message? How are you different from the rest? Working to develop authenticity in your marketing is, really, learning to know your strengths and weaknesses, and admitting to them, or working to change for the better. If you’re looking for a quick fix, you may be disappointed – but if you’re looking to do the right thing, the human thing, you’re looking in the right place.