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In marketing, authenticity is the new black

Marketers have a longstanding reputation as maybe not the most straightforward folks you’ve ever met. Like salespeople, marketers have been known to shade the truth just a touch. They know how to give any story just the right “spin.” You might be forgiven for taking what marketers say with a grain of salt. And the younger you are, the more likely it is that you pay almost no attention to marketing at all. At least not what you perceive as marketing.

Marketing is changing. Where marketing used to be nothing more than advertising and marketing collateral, now more and more of marketing is based on influence. It’s not what companies say about themselves that counts–it’s more about what other say about them.

Which is why authenticity is the new coin of the realm. If your marketing is considered authentic, if your company is authentic, if people can trust what you say and what you do–well, then you have a leg up on actually making the sale.

Authenticity is that special something that leads to trust which leads to influence. And just what kinds of things influence others? Benevolence. Generosity. Insight. Wisdom. All you need to do is show yours. That’s why techniques such as content marketing are taking off to demonstrate all of these qualities at once. Maybe it sounds like a tall order to be all of these things, but most people and most companies can pull it off on some scale. Maybe you aren’t an expert at everything, but be authentic about your expertise in the small area and, if people need what you do, that will be enough.

Now, I can hear a few of you murmuring out there. “How can we get our customers to think we are authentic?” One or two of you might be chuckling, “When you can fake authenticity, that’s when you have it made!”

But just when you think that’s the easy way out, it should be dawning on you that the easy way is staring you in the face. It might be hard to swallow, but the easiest way to be perceived as being authentic is to–wait for it–actually be authentic. Don’t pretend to be more than you really are.

And the bigger the company, the more the need to be actually authentic. Social media and other digital methods take away all the old brand image tools–if your employees to walk the talk, it is painfully obvious. And few of them will bother to fake the company image the way your PR team once did. Instead, you need to have  a core set of values for your company the attract the right employees and get them to stay, because they believe in what the company stands for.

So, you can try to burnish your image. You can think of your employees as lovable idiots who put tops on bottoms–and have nothing to do with that lovingly crafted brand image. But that’s so 20th century.

Today’s marketing depends on your company having a higher purpose than just making money. The kind of purpose that your employees will rally around. The kind that you don’t have to fake.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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