What is authenticity?
You’d be hard pressed to find a conference, webinar, or article within the last year that fails to mention the term. It’s marketing’s latest buzzword. Cherished and hailed as the secret to success. The newest essential tool for any online aficionado.
We’re told of its importance to Gen Z consumers. How brands who live by it will shine and those who don’t are passed by. It’s absolutely everywhere, which is why it’s all the more surprising it’s so rarely defined.
The challenge with authenticity is that it’s a term that changes through context. We’re not working off the same definition. It’s time to reign that in.
Everyone Thinks They Are Authentic
It’s easy to see how we’ve gotten lost. If you were to ask fifty CEO’s if their business is authentic, more than 95% would say yes. After all, they are authentic in their desire to sell you their products. They genuinely want you to buy them.
This highlights the real issue with such a vague term. Anyone can claim to be authentic in their actions. The real test of authenticity lies elsewhere.
What is Authenticity?
So what is authenticity in marketing? It’s not about how you see yourself, but rather what the public perceives. More specifically, it’s how the public compares your personae versus your actions. Let’s break it down with a few examples.
One way to view authentic actions is the phrase “practice what you preach.” An organisation that preaches sustainability should have programs in place to resource recyclable materials, reduce heating and electrical costs, or offset their carbon emissions. Similarly, one would expect a company that pushes for diversity and inclusion to hire a wide range of ethnicities, gender and sexual identities, and faiths.
This concept also applies to individual campaigns. You can’t run an authentic campaign targeting women without the inclusion of females in the conception and creative phases, not to mention in the ads themselves. The same type of consultation needs to occur with any group, whether you are targeting teens, ethnic minorities, or people with disabilities. In order to be authentic, you need to have heard directly from those who possess the lived experience.
Authenticity on Socials
On social channels authenticity is more about content curation, or the lack thereof. In general, the less edited and filtered the creative is, the more it’s viewed as authentic in nature. It’s part of the reason for the boom in user generated content. No we’re not talking about travel influencers with 5 million followers, rather the everyday content creator who films the world through their own day to day experiences.
This of course is more of a guideline than an absolute. You aren’t likely to see major brands turning over the keys to their major campaigns without some input from creative directors.
Why Does This Matter?
So why does it matter? We’re in an age where a brand’s values hold equal, or more weight than the quality of their products. New customers aren’t as easily swayed by a deal, instead considering factors like sustainability, integrity, and you guess it, authenticity. According to Stackla data, 90% of customers mentioned authenticity as an important factor in deciding which brands they like and support.
To further that, 46% of American consumers said they were willing to pay more for products from a brand they trust.
There is a clear correlation between trust and purchase intent, though this isn’t a hard and fast rule. After all, cost and simplicity always have a role to play in buying decisions.
How to Increase Authenticity in Your Organisation
Authenticity is not accomplished with a switch. It takes time to build up trust with the audience. Time to dissolve slick processes designed to reach perfection. It can be done though, especially when following a few helpful tips:
- Practice what you preach
- Include multiple voices with lived experience
- Be transparent about the good, the bad, and the ugly
- Desanitise your creative. Reduce image edits and robotic copy. Lean on user generated content to supplement your messaging
- Explore your values and live by them
Even by attempting to implement a few of these suggestions, you’re already on your way to creating a more authentic brand. As mentioned it’s more about actions than promises, so continue to deliver and remain consistent.
So what is authenticity in marketing? In short, it’s consistent, truthful messages that reflect a set standard of values. Live by it and you will find an audience full of support.