What is Authentic Marketing and Why Do You Need to Care in 2020?

Everyone hates marketers. You know why? Because some of them are bad marketers. Bad marketers are inauthentic and exploitative. I wanted that to end. So, let me share some good authentic marketing examples, ideas and best practices to explain what authentic marketers would do to make you fall in love with marketing again.

Now what exactly is ‘authentic marketing’? To be authentic is to be genuine; real, original. It does feel like a bit of an oxymoron to put that idea next to the term ‘marketing’, a term that by definition highlights only the good and conveniently pushes the bad under the rug.

Marketing will do anything to attract potential customers, even if it means tweaking the truth, which is not exactly what we call genuine.

But authentic marketing is the next big thing! And its end goal is to get people to like, heck, love the brand! You don’t want to just pull people in, you want to make people stay. This is how Kasey Skala, Digital Communications Manager at Great Clips, sees it:

Being authentic simply means brands need to stay true to who they are, what they do and who they serve. You have brands that act and operate one way offline and their online efforts are completely opposite. It seems that digital is causing brands to have split personalities. If we were to use digital to come off as a high-end luxury brand, our customers would see right through it. Our goal is to bridge the in-salon and online experiences and focus on bringing value to our customers, regardless of the method of interaction. It boils down to understanding your customers and what they want and expect from you.

We see this increasingly on sites like Twitter and Instagram; brands have made it a habit to reply to people’s tweets, having perfectly adapted to the lingo that’s used on these online spaces. It makes them the talk of the town for a while, earning a few thousand retweets, but more importantly it makes them memorable and it makes customers trust them.

Authentic marketers want to tell a story that will inspire and entertain. They want to do things for the greater good, purely to be altruistic. They want to market to customers, increase demand but their ulterior motive is to create happy and successful customers.

This wasn’t how brands always used to behave. So why the change? Why leave what’s comfortable? Because the world is ever changing and the Internet is not the same space it used to be even 5 years ago. Once the space of endless opportunities, now the Internet is considered ‘shady’. There is an oversaturation of information out there; people are being bombarded with ads, pop-ups and information all the time. 

And that is exactly why your personal brand matters so much. Take for example Elon Musk, the well-known CEO of Tesla. We can basically call him the expert of authentic marketing. Musk often shares memes on his social media, sells flamethrowers, and is unapologetically himself in front of the entire world to see. He automatically turns customers into fans. He has built relationships with his customers, to the point that his customers promote his products in lengthy videos on YouTube that often get millions of views. 

Build relationships – this is what I said on my LinkedIn a while back:

See that big number of likes? Being genuine reaps results. 

It is basic marketing knowledge that consumers stick to brands because of loyalty based on good experiences. We’ve known this for a while now, since the early 20th century actually, but in this day and age, in the era of globalization and how connected we are all the time, our brands have to do so much more than ever. 

People don’t just follow product marketing anymore; they actively look for reviews left by others, recommendations for products and services from those around them. Being known as a reputable brand does not only increase sales, it influences how customers speak to others about your business. 

I myself am an example of this. I’m a huge fan of Ahrefs. They make excellent videos on YouTube that aim to educate and teach everyone who wants to learn SEO. Having such resources available on an open platform is inclusive and it encourages people who may not yet be paying customers. 

I may not be their most profitable customer yet, but I actively promote them and this is how their brand reputation grows. It’s the same idea that we talked about a little earlier, with Tesla and Elon Musk; you build a relationship with your customers to the point that they market you themselves and that too willingly. Celebrity ads and endorsements are now a thing of the past. You’re more likely to take your neighbor’s advice, compared to an Instagram celebrity.

So how do we make use of the platforms available to us?

We have this impression of LinkedIn to be the epitome of professionalism, work related information and formal language. But Dave Gerhardt treats his viewers like family, and that leads to people trusting that he comes from a good place. Here’s what he posted:

Do you see what he did thereNot only is this an absolutely heart-warming picture, he’s also relatable. No longer is he just the VP Marketing (former)  at Drift. Now he’s a working dad, he’s someone who is hardworking, he’s a family man. And we find ourselves trusting him more than we would trust any other VP Marketing. He’s a person rather than just an official. 

And so, when he left Drift, he immediately had 300 loyal followers & fans to listen to his podcasts. 

And the numbers only grew from there. He is refreshingly genuine on his LinkedIn and people love him for it.

He’s honest and he’s real. He lays his strategies out there for everyone to see and people can see that he follows that ideology. He acknowledges the fact that one cannot possibly satisfy everyone so it is better to cater to those who do like you. 

It makes a world of a difference.

Another example of someone who excels at authentic marketing is Kristen LaFrance, Growth and Community at Churnbuster. Her twitter bio proudly displays the phrase ‘customers before metrics’ and that is exactly what her business practice follows. See for yourself just how appealing her content writing is:

She comes across as friendly and approachable, which is exactly what authentic marketing is. 

Basecamp’s Founder and CEO, Jason Fried, does this too. With a whopping 250.1K followers on Twitter, he habitually dishes out tweets like this:

Everyone knows about Google’s ads and tracking that follows us all, no matter where on the internet we are. It gets quite aggravating at times too. So, it is so refreshing to see a CEO call it out and just play with it for the heck of it. It is posts like these that get 38.1K likes. 

So what can you do?

Your vision

First ask yourself this: who are you?

What does your company do and what does your company care about? This is what Senior Manager of Public Relations at KFC, Rick Maynard thinks:

KFC’s social purpose is to celebrate “real.” To us, being real means being honest, inclusive, boldly unapologetic, refreshingly to the point, insightful and occasionally, a little edgy. We steer clear of being artificial, judgmental, insecure, full of hot air, timid or gimmicky. We try to celebrate our real fans, engage in real talk and encourage real consumer-generated content. We prefer “man on the street” images over staged food shots. That’s what being authentic means to our brand. And the great thing about being real is it’s also really easy. It’s much more difficult to try to be something you’re not.

No one can tell you what your company stands for. Not me, not your dog and not your ol’ college pal Sam. Start thinking about why you went into business and service in the first place, and stick with it. Consistency is key and people  will only be loyal to you if you are loyal to your vision. 

What makes you unique? 

Think about the following questions:

  • What specifically makes your product or service unique?
  • Why is your product or service better than your competitors’?
  • Why are your product’s or service’s features ideal for your target audience?
  • What will your customers get out of your product or service that they cannot get from your competitors’?
  • Why should your customers trust and invest in you and your product or service?

Be honest and genuine about it. An iconic example of honesty would be the No. 2 technique:

Everyone loves an underdog story. Like Dave said earlier, you can’t please everyone. So be Number 2 but be genuine and people will flock to you anyway. Number 1 is called mainstream in this time and age, Number 2 might just end up being your advantage. 

Another example of persuasive authentic marketing would be this landing page of Drift vs Intercom – I am gonna steal this. Why is it so great?

Here is the reason why it is amazingly authentic:

  • It acknowledges the competition
  • Clearly lays out the differences
  • Focus on what’s good about them vs competitor
  • Social proof of people who are switching from Intercom to Drift.
  • Great and honest copywriting

Your content

It’s 2020. Every one of your potential customers has seen every kind of advertisement possible, be it text, image or video. The internet is positively saturated and people have become experts at subconsciously ignoring what they don’t want to see.

The problem with most advertising campaigns is that they don’t look at how to attain the trust and affection of people. To brush this problem under the rug, distribution platforms pull out numbers. They measure growth with quantitative data like impressions, clicks, and views. They end up giving trivial passing interactions the same importance as meaningful engagements. But we have to remember; “the number of impressions is not the number of people impressed.”

And this is where Brand Affinity Marketing is important.

With Brand Affinity Marketing, instead of force-feeding viewers the same ad over and over and over again, companies look towards investing in longer, binge-worthy content.

What do we mean by binge-worthy?  Entertaining content that is so good people can’t help but want to watch, listen, or read a lot of it in one sitting. It is a term we often use for television shows, movies and YouTube videos. It is the true definition of engaging content which makes you into a fan. While this is not a term we use in corporate language, this is one of the best tools one can use for authentic marketing.

As per definition, the content of this kind encourages viewers to spend more time with your brand. This is how you make personal connections with them.

Personalization is a step further and is something I myself have been incorporating into my business practices, for people who sign up or qualify in the app.

I send my subscribers personalized videos regularly. This does two things: the customer feels included in the narrative and is hence more likely to see it to the end and they have a human face and voice and personality to imagine in association with a brand name and logo.

You can only grow demand by delivering unique content to a focused audience that resonates with their core values and identities.

Businesses should aim to make content that is:

  • Highlights the originality of your brand, pushes something only your business could achieve
  • Centers around a chosen theme. Do not incessantly shove your products and services down their throat. 
  • Intentional and consistent with a release schedule and branding. It is how so many successful YouTubers have grown their brands. If you are loyal to people, they will be loyal back.
  • Is approximately 10-15 minutes long. This is so that your video can tell a story fully

What is a brilliant way that people go about this? Podcasts of course! 

Podcasts tick all the boxes: they’re personal, casual and thematic. The are released on a schedule and some, in the case of live streams, even encourage audience comments and participation. 

In a nutshell…

To summarize, what can one do to immediately add authenticity:

  • Make your values clear; take a position and believe in it.
  • Improve your brand voice; who really are you?  
  • Let your employees be the voice; they are your brand ambassadors 
  • Use video marketing
  • Use podcasting
  • Become a thought leader 

No type of marketing reaps instantaneous results. Keep at it, play the long game, start being authentic and you will definitely build your own loyal fans.

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