“We need some authenticity in the world!” Donny Deutsch declared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few weeks ago. “We are losing authenticity everywhere in society,” he said, citing recent fiascos involving Beyonce’s performance at the inauguration, Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o. Is Donny right? And if so, why are brands so caught up in this struggle? Is “faking it” easier –or more difficult –than ever before?
For insight, I turned to Newt Barrett, who’s at the forefront of content marketing and co-author of Get Content, Get Customers, which urges marketers to adopt a brand new marketing mindset. Content marketing is a hot topic among CMOs, and I see it as one of the primary factors that can make –or break –brand authenticity in today’s marketplace.
LA: Tell me about the “new marketing mindset” you describe in your book. How have the rules changed? What role does authenticity play?
NB: The new marketing mindset is simple. It means to think like a publisher. Simply put:
- Define an ideal set of customers.
- Determine exactly what is most important for them to know.
- Deliver that information in a relevant and compelling way.
- Engender a level of trust that makes it easy for them to buy from you.
That’s the essence of content marketing.
Under the old rules, marketers created outbound messages about products and services. But, to reach their customers, they depended upon third-party media companies that stood between the marketer and the customer.
Under the new rules, marketers can go directly to their customers using inexpensive but powerful technologies that displace traditional media. However, they must still use time-tested reporting and writing skills that made trade and consumer publications must reading for prospective buyers.
Authenticity is essential. In the 2013 Super Bowl, Budweiser brilliantly remembered this marketing truth while Volkswagen sadly forgot. The Clydesdale colt’s reunion with his trainer made both tenderhearted moms and tough old Marines misty-eyed. At the phony end of the scale, the white business guy with the awful Jamaican accent gave new meaning to inauthentic for the VW bug.
LA: Do you think it’s more difficult for brands to remain authentic today? Why?
NB: No. It’s easy to be authentic when you truly understand your customers and their most pressing concerns. With that understanding, authenticity comes naturally. By combining genuine understanding with narrative skills, you can tell memorable and compelling stories that will be meaningful to your customers.
LA: How can brands rise to these new challenges? How can marketers keep their content marketing authentic?
NB: There are three keys to keeping it authentic:
● Use today’s inexpensive, but powerful research and survey tools to define, segment, and understand your most important customers so that you can talk to them in an authentic way. For $2500, marketers can conduct research that would have cost more than $50,000 just 10 or 15 years ago.
● Engage both in-person and virtually with your customers as often as you can. Starbucks baristas engage each customer graciously face-to-face every day in every store. On the virtual front, business blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media offer ongoing conversational venues for companies of every size. Our local Naples Harley dealer is a master at capturing the excitement of the new customer experience on their Facebook page.
● Integrate customer stories with your discussion of products, services, solutions, trends, etc. to make your customers the heroes and exemplars of the best and most positive results. This is the perfect way to illustrate that it is always all about the customer—and not about you.
Given the demands of multi-channel, multi-platform campaigns, it’s not easy for brands to remain consistent and genuine these days. But I agree with Newt and Donny: it is essential. As I discussed last month, marketers must make it a priority to build trust and transparency because now, consumers are in control. Today’s savvy buyers crave authenticity, and since the customer experience can now be related directly to revenues, it’s time marketers –and performers and athletes, etc. –started craving authenticity, too.
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