I’ve seen and heard this word ‘authentic’ cropping up more and more lately. Not in discussions about art or food, which might be more usual, but in conversations about marketing.
I’ve always loved a good authenticity debate. In my student days I remember studying popular music of all things (yes, I went to a real university), and a particular essay about the tension between authenticity and commerce really captured my interest. I won’t go into it in detail here, but when it comes to ‘art’, particularly music, people do care. They want to feel like they know the artist, that what they are hearing or seeing has been produced for a reason above any commercial considerations. Consumers crave extrinsic value, so they can validate their choices and feel good about them.
But authentic marketing? Surely marketing, of all things, is by its very nature inauthentic, a form of spin, more about promise than reality.
That might have been the case in the past, but not anymore. I don’t want to draw any grand conclusions here - I don’t believe people are becoming more honest or moral, or that this is a reaction to the post-truth, fake news time we find ourselves in.
What I will say is that marketers will follow whatever strategy gets results. And today, when anyone can instantly search thousands of news stories on a given brand, it pays to be true. If you want your business to grow to any sort of size, authenticity is vitally important. But how do you do it? Well, you can start by following these three maxims:
Be cynical if you like, but I believe we live in a time where honesty pays. Best of all, adhering to the above principles will help you to promote your business sustainably. If your customers genuinely respect you because of your track record as an authentic organisation, that’s when you move from being a commodity to being a sustainable brand.