Marketing has always battled a reputation for being manipulative and fuzzy on facts. “Keeping it real” is a marketing trend that started a decade or more ago, and has continued to iterate until we’re where we are today. In 2016, Business Insider drafted a list of The World’s 20 Most Authentic Brands based on consumers' impressions of “reliability,” “respectfulness,” and “reality” (whatever that means).
The article notes that the report (conducted by Cohn & Wolfe) shows “consumer cynicism is currently high globally, with four out of five consumers stating that brands are not ‘open and honest.” Mistrust is the current default for the vast majority of the public, and companies have responded with campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty, which positions itself as a middle finger to the neurotic perfectionism of the women’s health and beauty vertical.
The emphasis on authenticity is everywhere this year, with Forbes calling it “the most critical part of your social strategy,” and agencies issuing chirpy content like*:“Congratulations on embarking on your corporate re-branding authenticity initiative! You’ve made the right decision and your investment will pay off over and over...,”
“Five Ways to Create your Authentic Brand - Tip 1: It's been proven that women 25 - 40 love corporate social responsibility, so consider finding a nonprofit organization to highlight in your marketing”
“Your voice has to be genuine, while also reflecting your brand (a tricky balance).”
A tricky balance? It is?
“Creating an authentic brand” is as wrong-headed as practicing lip synching to enter a singing competition.
Authentic brands start from the inside out. So, you’re finding it. Not creating it.
Defining, refining and confirming your mission, vision and values (your reality) is step one. What happens next is designing the tactics you’re going to use to articulate them successfully into the marketplace, given your business objectives. So don’t put the cart before the horse and expect the modern consumer not to notice.
You can’t fake authenticity.
*Edited to protect the guilty.