We see this word “authenticity” everywhere these days, especially in reference to marketing. I use it in my own tagline service description, which is why I feel the need to revisit its “true” meaning.
There are several dictionary definitions of the now-loaded adjective “authentic”:
- not false or copied; genuine; real
- having an origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified
- representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified
- entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy
Of these, I connect most with the third on the list—true nature or true to oneself. I also like the words genuine and real. These are the phrases that to me represent the future of marketing in every sector—an authentic representation of a brand, company, product or service based on being true to where you came from, who/what you are and where you’re really going.
Authentic content—the real, not made-up messages you put out there in written, visual and video form about your brand—is in effect the new advertising (and public relations). We can no longer talk to savvy audiences the way we once did through hard selling, overt advertising, direct pitches or pleas, exaggeration or hyperbole, or generic content.
People see right through those ploys. Customers don’t want to buy what you are trying so desperately to sell. Consumers are in control, and increasingly they want to interact with brands that give them something real. In my segment, the outdoor industry, it could be a surprising reason to care about a piece of gear, some personal comeback story they can relate to directly or that goose-bump moment in the outdoors that shook them to action.
Millennials in particular are drawn to brands that tell a tangible story, give back and can create a naturally cohesive community online. To get there, we must all start to use more authentic stories. The non-fiction kind.
As the prolific Jay Baer of digital media and marketing company Convince & Convert recently wrote, “Storytelling in business is all the rage. Companies of every shape, size, and description now seek to sell goods and services via heroic tales in place of bullet points, features, and benefits.” However, he added that so far “many of these stories are just pretty commercials made to wear beat up sweatpants to try to boost authenticity and believability.”
In short, fiction stories won’t work. Truth will. Baer even goes so far as to forecast: “This move from fiction to non-fiction will impact every company, and will be the big content and social story in 2017.”
Obviously, I’ve been more than onboard with this trend for some time. Any company that wants to connect with consumers of the future will need to dig a little deeper to uncover their own authentic brand story, leverage real stories from satisfied (and even dissatisfied) customers and bring more forms of truth telling to every communication platform from video to social.
The future is truth. And for brands, authentic content is the prevailing standard for conveying that truth.