Why being authentic and credible as a marketing company matters

When we were deciding on our tagline, we took the adage, ‘Begin as you mean to continue’ to heart. We live in a country where the majority of people haven’t had the opportunities others have enjoyed. Many, through no fault of their own, have been marginalised. It’s very fashionable to want to be seen as an organisation that is ‘building the country’, but we wanted to do more than that. We didn’t just want to build the country and create job opportunities. We wanted to build people.

We are a creative group of people, and we revel in our creativity. Sometimes even in our individual eccentricity. Our tagline needed to encompass what we want to do, along with what we love doing. As with every marketing company, we also want to help our clients grow. But, our choice of clients is strongly predicated by whether they already have a similar ethos to ours.

The result of all the debate and brainstorming was a tagline we feel proudly passionately about and one that imbues all aspects of our company. That tagline?

“Create it forward”

However, what matters most is not that we have a snappy, feel-good tagline, but that we are seen, by our staff and our clients, to live up to that. Let me hasten to add, we are not a charity or an NGO. We’re in this to do great creative work that builds brands and makes a profit, both for ourselves and our clients. In order to achieve that, we need to be both authentic and credible.

To be seen as authentic and credible there are things we can’t do

We can’t call ourselves a creative marketing powerhouse if our work is barely above average. We can’t claim to be paying it forward if our staff feel ignored and undervalued. And we can’t tell our clients what to do if we’re not doing it ourselves. We can’t claim we are good at our jobs if there are no provable metrics to back that up.

Why authenticity matters

Brands can no longer just ‘look cool’. Consumers now expect brands to live up to their marketing. If they don’t, they will be called on it and will lose customers. The messages a company puts out must be genuine as well as align with the brand principles. A tricky thing to do when marketing, by nature, isn’t seen as really being authentic. It is advertising after all. Every company wants to be seen in the most attractive, clever and appealing light possible. They want to stand out above their competitors, and any negativity needs to be locked away in a dark cupboard in the basement.

Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool there is – whether that’s online or not

Once a company embraces authenticity, not to mention transparency – like Airbnb –  marketing becomes a whole lot easier as consumers will do a lot of the marketing for them. Companies that don’t, like Uber, will find consumers watching, and criticizing their every move.

Here are 4 ways to make sure your brand is always authentic and credible

1. The best policy is still – honesty

Is your brand known for its funny, witty or clever marketing? Is it known for being honest, vulnerable and trustworthy? Here’s the good news – it can be both.

Vulnerable? Shouldn’t a brand be strong and muscular instead? This is where honesty comes in. Vulnerability builds trust and mutual respect. But, how does a company show vulnerability without looking weak? By listening to feedback, even if it’s criticism and responding well, making adjustments to products or service where necessary. Remember, thanks to the internet a negative comment about a company can now be broadcast globally in seconds. Keep your customers up to date about how you’re working to make defective products or services better and they will be a lot more lenient than if you pretend nothing’s wrong. And fix the problems quickly.

2. How you handle a communications crisis says more than you’re actually saying

Recently, United Airlines made headlines around the world for dragging a passenger off a flight. A passenger that was in no way a danger to other passengers. The airline wanted his seat for a member of staff. The airline had not planned ahead and the passenger felt victimised because of his race. The incident was filmed by other passengers and went viral almost immediately. The company was in the wrong and had no manual for how to handle the inevitable backlash.

The company did respond to the criticism – and made a bad situation worse. How you respond matters. United Airlines issued two statements in twenty-four hours. Statements that contradicted each other. Within a very short space of time, United Airlines had damaged their reputation almost irreparably. The average airplane carries approximately three hundred people. That’s three hundred customers United Airlines lost immediately, not to mention the possibly thousands they lost when the story went viral.

We’ve mentioned being authentic means being human. But, being human, as a company, doesn’t mean being a jerk. Your company carries a responsibility to not indulge in knee-jerk reactions. Stay calm, clear and honest. Make sure your policies are clear to both your staff and your customers. And always be kind.

3. Spray and pray doesn’t pay

By its very nature, spray and pray marketing strategies are generic. They don’t speak to your target audience and they don’t take into account what that audience is looking for. It’s also a very old marketing technique, and if your company is still using it, you need an immediate marketing audit. Spray and pray is not only generic, but it also tells your potential customers you are out of touch with them, that you actually don’t care about them and are not forward thinking.

Today, the majority of the purchase decision is made long before a customer walks into your store or even orders online. Customers do their research online before they buy a product. If your marketing comes across as specious, you’re unlikely to make the sale. Authenticity is about being real, Being human. Give your marketing that human touch and you will be well on your way to being seen as credible.

4. Don’t be a psycho brand

It can easily happen, especially if a brand is re-inventing itself but doesn’t carry the message across all platforms consistently. If your online message differs from your traditional marketing or your retail outlet experience, your brand develops a split personality, as it were. And there’s nothing more off-putting for consumers than a brand which doesn’t know what it stands for or how it communicates. This is especially true of the in-store experience.

Consumers don’t mind when a brand reinvents itself, but that reinvention must have substance. A logo change without an improvement in product or service is meaningless.

Has your brand got meaning, purpose and vision? Is it authentic and credible? Is it communicating that to the right target audience? If you’re not sure, perhaps it’s time to stop and take stock.

At The Digital Alliance we can audit your marketing messaging across all your platforms, help you find your authentic voice and get your product or service to the right people with measurable results.