Authenticity in Marketing: Three Strategies You May Have Overlooked


“I have a mantra when it comes to marketing: Brands don’t influence people, people do . . . The way for brands to build loyalty in the 21st century is to behave more like people. Elements of humanity are more important to emphasize than blanket declarations of authenticity.” (Advertising Age)

Whether you’re a one-person shop or a larger brand, the following piece of advice in the quoted Advertising Age article holds true: instead of talking about how authentic you are—because those are empty words that anyone can parrot—simply be authentic in your message and its presentation, and your interactions with people. In this article, we’ll share examples of that principle in practice by real people in real businesses.

Tip #1: Stop Being Hyper-Professional

Yes. It’s important to act professionally in your job, to be ethical and to treat others well. But when being “professional” crosses over into presenting a stiff, cardboard character-like persona, seriously rethink what you’re doing.
Authenticity in Marketing
As Megan Zavieh, attorney at law, puts it, “What seems to work best is simply being myself. As soon as I stopped trying to cultivate an image of a straight-laced, buttoned-down white shoe lawyer, I started getting much more open and honest reactions from my clients and potential clients.”

Megan represents or consults with other attorneys when they need to defend themselves when charged with violations. So, she points out, “when I buck the trend in my approach to my practice and to marketing, I am doing it directly to the establishment.”

Her down-to-earth approach includes putting personal photos on her business website (scroll down this page to see some), including those of when she competed in obstacle course racing and ones where she’s hanging out with her family. She also uses offbeat images on her site, such as a weight lifter being spotted to provide visuals for the support she offers attorneys involved in ethics investigations. Yes, she says, “I definitely turn some people off by being non-traditional, but I make tracks with lawyers who are also tired of the staid ways of our profession but don’t necessarily know how to break out of it.”

If you want to do a gut check on your own website, check the About Us page. Is it bland corporate-speak or do the people included (there ARE people included, right?) seem like real individuals with personalities? Here’s an example of the latter from DAGMAR Marketing. If your About Us page reads too robotically, it’s time to step outside your comfort zone to present yourself more genuinely. If your instinctual response is that your business is too traditional for this approach, remember that so is Megan’s. If you aren’t ready to go all-in, take baby steps and monitor results.

Tip #2 Ditch the Jargon. It’s Okay. Really.

Using jargon can make you feel warm, comfortable, and safe. After all, if you aren’t 100% clear in what you say, nobody can use your words against you. And, if you’re used to talking about synergizing solutions to empower game-changing goal-post moving, then it would take a whole lot of exhausting work to figure out how to communicate what your products and/or services really do. Curricula, though, a cyber-security firm that trains organizations how not to get hacked, decided to ditch the time-worn approach of jargon—and actually explain, for example, what ransomware is and how it can attack your technology.

Nick Santora, who runs the Curricula team, explains how his industry falls into this trap. “Our market has been sleeping at the wheel as far as innovation with clunky learning management systems and boring, legal-driven content.” Step one for Curricula was to gather together top creative talent, hiring people from Nike, Disney, Coke and so forth. But, the beauty of this approach is that frugal entrepreneurs can also benefit from Curricula’s experience and strategies. This company creates “short, animated stories that teach employees how to defend against cybersecurity threats” and you can sign up for a free animation here to see how they differ from other company’s approaches.

Nick’s tips:

  •         “Most importantly, we are ourselves.”
  •         “Avoid trying to sound better you are, and don’t use words you would never really say in life.”
  •         Make the experience “very related, fun, and effective, and not another Death by PowerPoint Experience.”
  •         “Just be honest and it will come across that way.”

He admits that they have “lost plenty of deals because of who we are, and that executives think we are too fun or too different, but that is going to happen. You cannot try to please anyone and everyone. And, once they realize they need to change their perspectives, they will turn around again.”

Tip #3 Speak Genuinely to Multiple Layers of Audiences

In Nick’s case, he needs to appeal to one layer of audience before reaching the audience that his animations actually speak to. More specifically, he needs to persuade employers that Curricula’s program is the best way to educate their employees. The employers are more likely to be interested, as just one example, in the monetary damage that ransomware can inflict on a company, so statistics are more likely to be used in the sales material.

But, the employees want the training materials to be “fun, engaging and relevant,” containing information that “applies to them personally. If an employee doesn’t feel 100 percent connected to the training, then he won’t care about ransomware’s impact on his employer.” And, if the employees don’t engage with the materials, then the training program won’t help with cybersecurity—which means the employers aren’t going to be a good word-of-mouth marketing source or likely to provide positive online reviews or testimonials that would fuel future marketing efforts.

When your company uses social media, you are also speaking to multiple audiences—or at least you should be. The obvious audience consists of people you hope will buy your product and/or service. A key secondary audience, though, are fans of your business (or you, personally) and therefore want to help spread the word, even though they aren’t currently in the market for what you sell. So, the more informative and/or entertaining you make your posts, the more likely that you’ll engage and build this audience. Also remember a third audience of importance: journalists who are looking for intriguing people to interview, people who have expertise and are quotable. Sometimes, a social media post can contain elements that would appeal to all three audiences. Other times, posts won’t, but remember to include all relevant audiences in your social marketing mix.

Bio: Chris Gregory is the founder and a managing partner of DAGMAR Marketing, a local SEO company based in Jacksonville, Florida. The agency’s work was recently recognized in Search Engine Land’s international search marketing competition, garnering the Best Local SEO Initiative Award. DAGMAR also provides an Ultimate Marketing Blueprint for Startups. http://www.dagmarmarketing.com




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