The Importance of Authenticity in Digital Marketing
These days, running a successful digital marketing campaign is about more than simply grabbing your audience’s attention. It’s about authenticity.
When it comes to digital marketing, you need to show your customers that they can trust you. That you’re honest, open, and transparent in all your dealings. If you cannot demonstrate that, they will inevitably seek out a brand that can.
Twenty-odd years ago, putting together a successful marketing campaign was as simple as creating some catchy ads and brainstorming a decent tagline — well at least it seamed that way.
Unfortunately, times have changed. These days, consumers are positively inundated with brands trying to grab their attention.
As a result, people have largely tuned out. They’re sick of brands constantly pawing at them for attention, sick of being treated as commodities rather than human beings. This is exactly why authenticity in digital marketing is so important in 2020.
Let me paint a picture for you with some numbers:
- A recent survey published on Statista found that nearly 50 percent of users in the United States said that they find online advertisements ‘annoying.’
- The Meaningful Brands Report published by multinational advertising agency Havas found that 77 percent of brands could disappear without anyone caring.
- The same report found that though 90 percent of customers expect brands to deliver content, consumers feel that 58 percent of content is irrelevant and lacks meaning.
- The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found that only 52 percent of people globally trust businesses.
- A recent survey by marketing specialist Stackla found that 90 percent of consumers say authenticity is important in deciding what brands they like and support.
- A study by Bonfire Marketing found that 91 percent of people rate honesty about products and services as extremely important, while only 61 percent care about utility and 39 percent about brand popularity.
Today’s customers want a brand that not only understands their wants and needs but is also honest, accountable, and transparent. Most businesses seem unable to meet these qualifications. As a result, they are largely forgettable, their messages lost in the vast sea of white noise that is the modern web.
Let’s talk about how your business can avoid sharing their fate by adding a little more authenticity in digital marketing.
What Is Authenticity, Exactly?
Let’s start with defining authenticity as it applies to modern branding. It is, after all, the latest buzzword that everyone likes to bandy about. Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as some people would have you believe.
In essence, being authentic means establishing a clear brand identity and staying true to it. It means having established values and ideals and following them in everything you do. It means consistent language, imagery, and personality across your social channels.
It means being unafraid to show your audience who you are, and connect with them as people first and customers second.
How Can I Make My Marketing More Authentic?
Transparency, honesty, and accountability are often spoken of side-by-side with authenticity. I’m not going to pretend these aren’t important. They are.
Trade secrets aside, you should not hide things from your audience. If you make a mistake, own up to it. If there’s a problem with a product or service, focus on fixing it rather than trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. We live in the era of the global village.
This means that if your customers are upset with your business, they can easily meet their needs elsewhere.
That brings me to my next point. Think about your audience. Answer for yourself the following questions in as much detail as possible.
- Who are they?
- What are they interested in?
- What do they value?
- What do they want, and why?
- What do they need, and why?
- What is it about my brand that resonates with them?
A thorough understanding of your audience is vital if you’re going to engage with them as people – and you need to. Modern website marketing is about relationship building rather than the sales funnel. It’s about interacting with them, finding out what they care about, and demonstrating that you care about them.
Ask them questions via customer surveys and social posts. Work on building relationships and establishing an understanding rather than pursuing leads. Talk to your customers rather than talking at them.
Wherever possible, keep an eye out for user-generated content that your brand can promote. Instagram photos of people using your products or services. Facebook and Twitter posts about your business. Positive user reviews. These are all invaluable in not only building trust, but generating both excitement and awareness.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t overtly try to make sales. You can still pay for advertisements. You can still include calls to action on your website. You can still show off your products in the occasional Instagram or Facebook post.
But don’t act like a salesperson – making sales is not what authentic marketing is about. The moment you start doing that, people’s hackles will be raised. Rather than see you as a trusted brand to which they’ll be loyal, they’ll start to see you as just one more shyster who’s only interested in making a sale.
That trust, once lost, can be nearly impossible to get back.
“Brand authenticity is rooted in the overlap between what a brand does and what consumers want. It is an expression of how a brand transcends the pursuit of profit, whether by keeping customers informed about a product’s ingredients to enable healthy choices or by giving them more time to spend with friends and family through a simplification of their daily routine…[Consumers] want brands to respect their intelligence and alleviate their anxiety about misinformation by presenting themselves honestly and consistently.”
Authenticity and Respect Go Hand in Hand
Understanding. Transparency. Respect. These are the pillars of authenticity in digital marketing. And in an era where marketing messages are a dime a dozen and consumers are tuning out the vast majority of businesses, they’re more important than ever.
If you try exclusively to sell to your audience, you’re just more white noise. If you build a relationship with them, however, you become something more. A trusted partner with which they’ll opt to do business time and again.