Authentic Marketing

Authentic Marketing: Can Consumers See Through Your Marketing?

 

Authentic marketing is one of the essential components found in many of the most successful organizations. I’d like to start by defining authentic marketing. The following quote from Philip Kotler, one of the greatest legends in marketing, defines authentic marketing.

 

Authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make. It is the art of identifying and understanding customer needs and creating solutions that deliver satisfaction to the customers, profits to the producers and benefits for the stakeholders.”
– Philip Kotler

Are We Authentic?

It’s critical when assessing the authenticity of your marketing to take an honest look at your marketing and ask the tough questions, such as:

  • Can consumers see that we are trying to sell to them?
  • Are we taking a sales oriented approach rather than a customer driven approach?
  • Are we pushing our products or services rather than creating customer value and trust?

If the answers to these questions are yes, but don’t know how to change or adapt then this post is for you.

The Common Problem

If you are in marketing on a daily basis, we struggle with the same common problem no matter if you work for a large organization, agency, or small to medium size organization.

As marketers the common problem we share:

How to reach your target audience and convert them into a purchase with the ultimate goal of creating a brand loyal customer? 

The business environment is extremely crowded with more messages and more content developed daily at an ever-increasing rate.

An important first step in evaluating your marketing plan and (hopefully your integrated marketing plan) is an audit. However, I would like to suggest starting with, the most critical element the mission, vision, and values.

Mission, Vision, Values, and Personnel

In my opinion, everything starts from the mission, vision, and values and this is something that organizations do not give the proper degree of importance and in some cases overlooked entirely.

Identifying and executing on a deep set of company values is critical for any organization. An organization’s mission, vision, value statements, and personnel strategies is the cornerstone of an organization and provides the filter to guide overall business strategy and every business decision within the company.

Marketing is fundamental to the execution of business strategy, and an integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy approach provides an ideal model to communicate with consumers. The vision, mission, and values provide a compass pointing your overall business strategy and marketing strategy in the right direction.

Consumers can see through organizations lacking authenticity because of inconsistent behavior that deviates from its vision, mission, and values.

If your organization is viewed as lacking authenticity, then your company most likely has several concerns. Organizations lacking authenticity typically have increased marketing costs, price sensitive consumers, a lower number of brand advocates, and a higher customer acquisition cost compared to competitors who are viewed as authentic.

Here are a few baseline questions to ask of your organization:

  • Does our vision or mission statement provide the reason we are in business with room for growth?
  • Do we use our vision, mission, and values throughout our organization as a filter for every business decision?
  • Do we offer a vision, mission, and set of values that provide consumers with a rallying call based on shared values?
  • Does the vision, mission, and values inspire internal and external stakeholders?
  • Do we consistently communicate and deliver on our vision, mission, and values throughout the organization?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the following insight can help your organization to acquire the authenticity required in the rapidly changing business environment.

 

Brand and Integrated Marketing Communications

A brand position provides a means to identify with the company, differentiate itself in the marketplace, and guarantee consistency to consumers. Selecting a brand position for an organization is the starting point for the brand strategy. Once a brand strategy is formed, an IMC strategic plan can be created to influence perceptions of the corporate brand, and if applicable each sub-brand across all channels.

An IMC strategy includes checkpoints such as execution and evaluation of the creative strategy to ensure alignment with the mission, vision, values, and business strategy. Firms with an authentic mission statement that fuels execution are clearly winning business. Brand image and brand messages complement and provide synergy when performed effectively.

Authenticity, shared values, and quality products or services form the core component of an effective IMC campaign. Corporate decisions and corporate social responsibility communicate and demonstrate authenticity. A company can leverage authenticity and gain a following based on consumers with similar shared values using an IMC approach that allow brand messages to resonate with the target audience.

Sinek’s Golden Circle Theory

simon sinek photo

Photo by CEA/CC by 2.0 http://bit.ly/10VMfXD

The philosophy and theory on brand image and brand messages that resonate come from the author; Simon Sinek. Sinek details his Golden Circle Theory of how successful organizations communicate from his best-selling book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

The central idea of the Golden Circle Theory is, people do not buy what a company does, people buy why they do it.

Sinek’s theory provides evidence of how most companies communicate in an uninspiring manner. The typical organization state what they do, how a company is different or better, and the expectation of a particular behavior, such as a purchase.

Authentic MarketingThe Golden Circle Theory focuses on:

  1. Why: This is the fundamental belief of the business. It’s why the business exists.
  2. How: This is how the organization fulfills that core belief.
  3. What: This is what the organization does to fulfill that fundamental belief.

 

 

The why is the cause, purpose, or belief of the organization, which according to Sinek very few companies know why they are in business. Apple is an example Sinek uses with Steve Jobs vision of design and simplicity as the basis guiding how Apple does things and what they produce.

Apple Example

A sample marketing message Sinek gives from Apple states,

“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

– Simon Sinek

Apple’s method of communicating provides consumers’ with trust, confidence, and a set of shared beliefs inspiring people to make a purchase from the company.

Apple’s inspiration provides the rallying call based on shared values that resonate across all communications and platforms permeate business and marketing strategy including e-commerce. The how refers to the actions a company takes to bring the beliefs into reality. The what are the resulting actions, such as the services, products, culture, marketing, and employees.

Other Organizations Doing it Right

Other examples of successful companies with a clear understanding and focus on the reason why they are in business:

  • Sam Walton’s (Walmart) vision to make quality goods affordable and available to rural America.
  • Herb Kellerman’s (SouthWest Airlines) vision to eliminate unnecessary services and utilize secondary airports in order to offer the lowest fares in the industry.
  • Bill Gates’s (Microsoft): accessible information for everyone.
  • Sam Calagione’s (Dogfish Head) vision of brewing “off-centered ales for off-centered people”.
  • Ben and Jerry’s vision statement “Making the best possible ice cream, in the nicest possible way”.
  • Walt Disney’s vision “To make people happy”.
  • Yvon Chouinard’s (Patagonia) vision “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”.
  • Blake Mycoskie (TOMS) vision to impact the greater good.

These entrepreneurs’ founded successful companies with unique visions, missions, and values with a clear understanding why they are in business. The visions and missions of these organizations provide marketers the ability to leverage these core beliefs to create the strategy, tactics, and marketing messages that resonate with consumers based on shared beliefs.

 

 

Authentic Marketing, Firms of Endearment, and Results

According to Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller, organizations labeled firms of endearment have reduced marketing spend and earn higher profits. Customers and especially millennials provide highly credible word-of-mouth marketing that resonates with the target audience for an organization or brand.

Millennials and Authentic Marketing

authentic marketing

Millennials and the significant value of this generation can be seen as the key driver of authentic marketing. The millennial generation represents the largest generation consisting of approximately 80 million people with over $170 billion in purchasing power. The millennial generation with its significant influence is shaping the way that brands send messages, forcing businesses to change or suffer the consequences.

Authentic marketing provides the key to reaching millennials. There are numerous and unique millennial characteristics related that lend themselves to the practice of authentic marketing:

 

  • The view of brands as a partnership and form of self-expression
  • Honesty, authenticity, and value
  • Taking action on behalf of brands based on loyalty
  • Significant brand loyalty to brands and products of preference
  • Two-way communication, social responsibility, and connection with a personal touch
  • Altruism and a predisposition to support social and environmental causes they care about
  • Purchase and support companies with environmentally and socially responsible products (brands)

Content Marketing

The relative new trend in marketing involves a content marketing approach that leverages authenticity and shared values to portray the company’s unique characteristics through blogs, social media, and the website. Content marketing provides a unique platform to tell the story of these companies and effectively demonstrate the authenticity.

Creative content marketing strategies aligned to business strategy allow these companies to continue to gain loyal followers based on trust and shared beliefs. Content marketing provides the ability to connect with the target audience, especially the millennials in an authentic manner.

Summary

An authentic marketing approach is in the best interest of your consumers, and therefore, should be at the core of everything you do as an organization. Gone are the days of pushing a product into the market with a sell, sell, sell mindset. Everything a company does has to be firmly focused on the consumer with a pull and not a push approach for your product or service. Authenticity starts with the mission, vision, values, and personnel.

The mission, vision, and values provide the filter for every decision made by the organization to earn the trust required by consumers and the marketplace.

Simon Sinek takes us a step further with his unique Golden Circle Theory and we can see how the great brands communicate and market in an authentic way. The way brands such as Apple, SouthWest, Microsoft, and Dogfish Head communicate have clearly differentiated themselves from their competitors and the industry.

Organizations and marketers cannot ignore the influence of the millennial generation, and how authenticity is a critical component in reaching this key demographic.

Hopefully, I have provided you with a new paradigm of thinking about your marketing with authenticity as a key element with illustrations from the best organizations demonstrating how they differentiate themselves and win.