How to Practice Authenticity in Marketing

By Madison Taylor
October 1, 2023
Coworkers smiling around a laptop

There’s never been a generation of consumers that was more capable of doing their research than the ones who are out there shopping right now.

Today’s shoppers don’t buy anything more complicated than a toothbrush before looking it up online, reading reviews, comparing it to other products, and asking their friends on Facebook about it. If you are not honest about what your product is and what it can do, your current customers will tell the world, and your future customers will find out about it. According to Trustpilot, customer advocacy can increase marketing effectiveness by more than 50 percent.

It’s not just the product itself that customers care about, either. They care about the values that your brand espouses in addition to the products it sells. A few decades ago, competition was more limited. If you found a company that made the product you wanted, you didn’t have a lot of choice.

That is no longer true. If you want to buy a high-quality winter coat, you have the option of being picky. You can buy from a company that only uses ethical labor practices. You can buy from a company that doesn’t use animal products. You can buy from a company that’s dedicated to recycled materials and donating to environmental causes. Sometimes, you can find a company that does all three.

Customers are starting to base more and more of their shopping decisions on brand values like environmentalism, political values, social justice, labor practices, sustainable supply chains, and more. If your business is conducted in a way they don’t like, they’ll find out about it. Moreover, your marketing will stand out more if it feels authentic and relatable. Given the flood of marketing that today’s consumers are exposed to, anything you can do to cut through the clutter is useful.

How to Be More Authentic

We know there’s a kind of irony in telling you how to be more authentic. This is just general advice — you’ll have to figure out the details as they apply to your specific company and your specific customers.

Establish your values: think about the reason your company exists, and making money doesn’t count as a reason. Chances are, there was already a competitor out there doing roughly what you do. Why should you exist in addition to them? What else do you bring to the table? What problem in people’s lives are you trying to solve?

Be transparent: give the world a peek behind the curtain and show them how your business is run. Introduce your staff and take pictures of your workplace. Make a video about your manufacturing process. Talk about using sustainable energy for your server farms, purchasing carbon offsets for your shipping, or whatever else it is that you are doing to make a difference. And if there are areas where you’re coming up short, own them. Talk about how you’d like to improve in those areas going forward, and follow up as you get better.

Create a better FAQ page: your business will succeed if your customers succeed, and your customers will succeed if you can anticipate their needs before they even know them. An FAQ page, backed up by a robust set of resources and educational materials, will help your customers learn to use your product, adopt it into their daily lives, and make the most of it.

Employ people who embody your brand: when you think about your brand values, think about the kind of person who will help you spread those values to the world. If the people who make up the face of your company seem at odds with what the company claims to be, your customers won’t trust you.

Don’t sugarcoat your problems: every company will run into speed bumps now and then, from website glitches to manufacturing problems too late shipping to accidental social media posts. When those problems happen, don’t run away from them. Explain to your customers what happened, how it happened, and how you’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Take considered stands: while you don’t need to weigh in on every political debate, be willing to take a stance on issues relevant to your industry or business. Customers appreciate alignment between their values and the brands they support. However, a crucial caveat is that authenticity should be genuine and aligned with your audience. Avoid virtue-signaling that feels contrived or taking positions that don’t resonate with your customer base. Authenticity is not about appeasing every trend but staying true to the core values that define your business’s existence.

The Importance of Authenticity in Practice

In a marketing landscape defined by consumer empowerment and information abundance, authenticity is a critical component of marketing success. Today’s shoppers don’t merely buy products; they invest in values. This paradigm shift necessitates a strategic approach to authenticity.

Authenticity, in essence, involves aligning your brand with its core values and consistently demonstrating this alignment to your audience. Transparency plays a pivotal role by providing a window into your business operations, from showcasing your team to sharing your commitment to social and environmental causes.

Moreover, authenticity is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It requires businesses to adapt their approaches according to their unique values and their audience’s expectations. While taking a stance on pertinent issues is encouraged, it should be rooted in authenticity and relevance, avoiding the pitfalls of virtue signaling.

Remember that authenticity is more than a marketing tactic; it’s a trust-building cornerstone. Upholding your brand’s fundamental principles in a world where consumers seek meaningful connections can set you apart and resonate deeply with your audience.