The importance of being authentic

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The importance of being authentic

How are we? It’s Friday afternoon and all that. I’m going to use this not that. Today I’m going to talk about the importance of being authentic. I thought I’d start off with some irony with a nice authentic photo in the background. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone just knew their place? I don’t mean that like a 1950s housewife. That’s not my sort of thing. I mean it as in wouldn’t it be great if everyone knew where they fit in in the bigger picture? Like this little chap here.

Anakin Skywalker would be a Jedi which we’d all be happy about. I know Travis will. Donald Trump would still be in The Apprentice USA, where he belongs, not necessarily in the White House. People behave strangely when they’re trying to be something they’re not. I call this being inauthentic. It’s often caused by social pressure.

This theory applies to companies too, especially in today’s world. An example for companies: Payday Loans, I think we’re all aware of some companies. They don’t financially benefit the end user. It’s open to discussion, but I think it’s quite self-explanatory that some people who use this service can get themselves in a little bit of hot water. Some still imply the opposite because that’s what their business model is built up on.

I ask you, is that being authentic as a company? Why is authenticity important? Well, mainly because global trust is quite low at the moment. Not a lot of people trust other people. Let me show you some examples. 2016, Edelman Trust Barometer, it’s a survey that 33,000 respondents get involved in. This was conducted between October 13th and November the 16th, 2015, and it shows the amount of trust that these responders had within these sectors of the industry: not for profit, business, media, and government, you can see the order there.

The thing that fascinated me was about 50% of people trusted these organisations. They’re such a major part of our lives. Not for profit obviously being the main, but the one I’m focusing on (or the the two), businesses and media because us, as marketers, are involved within these industries. The thing is that it makes our jobs difficult because half of the people within this, and if it is reflective of everybody else, half of the people don’t trust what we’re saying. It makes our job really difficult.

I think it’s self explanatory that trust helps company succeed. It’s gotten to the point in society where that’s self evident. That’s what we always try and endorse. Thousands of companies are trying to be something they’re not. I think it’s because they don’t know their place in an industry that’s constantly evolving. Because of this, their communication is skewed and they’re not trusted. It’s our job, as marketers, to try and bridge that gap between communication …We are the gatekeepers between corporation and consumers. We need to make sure this relationship builds again.

How can we make companies more authentic? How can we help? The thing is, authenticity isn’t binary. Did a lot of research in thinking about this this week. It’s not “it is or it isn’t black and white, that’s authentic, that’s not.” There’s different factors to it, there’s different layers to it, like an onion. I looked at these layers, tried to think about the different intensities of authenticity and so forth, and I managed to simplify it into my three truths which I will share with you now.

Purpose, market, and society. It doesn’t mean much at the moment, a nice little Venn diagram to add into a marketing presentation, as you have to have, but this is what I mean by it. Every company, if they say they’re authentic, should be able to answer those three questions with conviction. Are they being true to their purpose? Are they being true to the market? Are they being true to society? Let me elaborate. Are they portraying themselves as what they really are? Does the market need what they’re offering? Is what they’re offering beneficial to society? Let me give you some examples.

Naming no names, Payday Loans, which we discussed just a minute ago. I would say that they’re being true to their purpose. They know what they are and they’re not trying to hide that. Are they being true to the market? Does the market actually need what they offer? I would argue not. Are they being true to society? Is it benefiting society what they offer? Again, open to discussion but, for me, I don’t think so. App-based taxi services, I think you can all think of one. Are they true to their purpose? I think so. They know what they are. They don’t try to hide that. Is there a market for it? Absolutely, 100%. It’s growing like wildfire across the whole world and they’re obviously fulfilling that. Is it being true to society? Now, this is obviously a controversial one.

Some people might say yes, it’s because they’re offering a service. They’re saving people money, saving people time. Some people might say no because it’s making existing sectors suffer and possibly some of the employees in certain companies as well. Interesting one, there’s a chocolate TV advert that’s currently being aired that was originally an ad for the Paralympics, as part of the Paralympics, which includes actresses with disabilities as the leads of the adverts. Personally, I think it’s brilliant for society because it’s being progressive in the way people think about this. There’s a market for chocolate, I think everybody can agree with me there. But, is it being true to their purpose as a chocolate making company?

As a result, if it isn’t, does that mean that they’re being authentic as a company, or they’re just trying to make money? Again, open for discussion. Lastly, and there’s plenty of authentic agencies, or companies … Not agencies. The one that comes to the top of my head is ones that do app-controlled thermostats. Are they being true to their purpose? Yes, they know what they are. They’re quite evident about that. Is there a market for it? Absolutely, because people are saving money as a result. Is it benefiting society? Yes, because they claim to be ticking the boxes from an ecological perspective.

The thing is, when something’s not entirely authentic, or when a company is not entirely authentic, marketers try to fix it. As a result, you get some messaging which is a bit convoluted and inauthentic. People can see right through that. So how can we help, as marketers? It’s quite simple. Market something for what it is. Ask yourself, “Does what I’m marketing have a purpose? Have a demand? Have a neutral or positive impact on society?” If it does, consider it certified, and you can do that. If it doesn’t, and I think this is important, create a discussion. You don’t have to refuse to do anything, but you can certainly say your worries, say that, “This is not authentic, and how can we go about this?”

It might be that you start a whole paradigm shift within the company in question and it could cause them to be more conscious about this in the future. One thing you should definitely not do is never market something for what it isn’t. Ultimately, it doesn’t work anymore. That’s me, on a tricycle. Any questions?