Success in marketing is often dependent on understanding the needs and priorities of your target demographic. As Millennials and Gen-Z have risen to become the largest portion of consumers, they have started to influence distinct changes in commercial attitudes and approaches. Among the primary contributing factors, is the tendency for these generations to place specific emphasis on engaging with brands that have an authentic commitment to a strong set of values.
This means that to create marketing campaigns that make an impact with contemporary audiences, you need to do more than exhibit values. Your approach has to maintain authentic adherence to these ideals throughout the process. The methods you use need to demonstrate a mindset that reflects the environmental, social, and ethical priorities that the brand ostensibly prioritizes. This allows consumers to not only relate to the mission of the brand but also builds trust that gives them incentives to engage more fully with you on a long-term basis.
So, how do you actually build this brand authenticity into your marketing strategy from a practical perspective? Let’s examine a few of the key areas that you should be focusing on.
One of the reasons that authenticity has become an important aspect of marketing is that many businesses are using false ideals to illicitly take advantage of consumer demand for values-led practices. There is a habit of greenwashing across multiple industries, in which companies claim to act ethically and sustainably when in reality they are anything but. The marketing departments of these businesses use various strategies here, including using green buzzwords — organic, natural, and botanical are popular examples — in their marketing channels, materials, and packaging to suggest high standards. These falsehoods damage consumer trust, and as such, one of the ways your brand can demonstrate you are different from the many greenwashers is by including transparency as part of your marketing efforts.
Being transparent is about lifting the veil on all operations that are prevalent in the business, to show that the way production, staff behaviour, and community relationships are undertaken to match the external brand voice. One of the best tools to do this is the creation of “behind-the-scenes” marketing materials. Use your social channels to share videos, blog posts, and podcasts that give your audience insights into the key processes that demonstrate your commitment to your values. Show manufacturing methods. Highlight your vigilance in ethically sourcing raw material. Have interviews with regular members of staff, not just leadership.
Your marketing approach to transparency shouldn’t just focus on content that drives sales, but also starts a conversation when things go wrong, or operations haven’t been successful in meeting ethical, environmental, or social standards. Use social media and your website to talk not just about what is good about the business, but where you occasionally struggle. This level of transparency helps consumers to connect with brands that they know are run by humans that are fallible but willing to put in the genuine work to be better.
When there are frequent changes to standards or varied experiences from customer to customer, your demographic can find this confusing and have reason not to rely on or trust in your brand. As such, one of the priorities of building authenticity as part of your marketing strategy needs to be a commitment to consistency.
First and foremost, there needs to be consistency between values and behaviour. If your brand purports to prioritize sustainable practices in your production, this must also extend to your marketing. Utilize digital methods that don’t put undue pressure on the environment; social media posts, videos, blog content rather than print advertisements or physical mail-outs. If traditional media is unavoidable, make certain that all print materials are made from materials clearly marked as recyclable, and television productions use renewable energy sources and minimize the negative impact on the communities they film in.
You also need to develop a consistent approach to messaging. Consumers need to be able to trust that the values throughout the company are so solid that there will be no contradictory variations. Create a brand voice that is values-led. This should include a set of documents that show all marketing contributors — social media managers, content writers, video producers — what the core mission of the brand is, and how to include these as part of their content. This could include key phrases, values-centric content inspiration, not to mention avoidance guidelines for actions that are the antithesis to the brand voice and priorities.
Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It only succeeds when it results in engagement from the target demographic. The same goes for building authenticity as part of your marketing campaign. Consumers don’t want to just be subjected to copy about your values, they need to engage with you about them in a meaningful way. As a result, your marketing approach should also focus on maintaining an authentic dialogue with your audience.
Make distinct efforts to bond emotionally with your consumers. Develop the type of social media presence that is predicated on respect for your followers and dedicated to reaching out to them to listen to their concerns or meet their needs. Listen to what is important to them, and even use your channels to help support the causes, social issues, and communities that are important to them. If they have complaints or queries, encourage them to contact you on these public platforms — remember, transparency is vital — and discover genuine solutions together.
When developing campaigns, remember that your audience has value to contribute to the conversation. Invite the submission of user-generated content that references your products or services. This can be commissioned items, or sharing online reviews and discussions they’ve made independently. From an authenticity perspective, this builds credibility as an independent source of marketing, and it can act as an effective form of social proof that informs decision making of customers who are on the fence about purchasing from you.
Your brand marketing may well be high quality, but if consumers don’t feel there is clear authenticity, they may not connect with it. As such, you need to run your campaigns with a focus on transparency, consistency, and the development of a meaningful dialogue. By maintaining practices that assure customers of your credibility, you can help them to engage more fully with your brand.