In the 80s, the rise of cable television made created an explosion of advertising.

Direct to consumer messages were on every channel, in every magazine, and they were all selling a fantasy: this boom box would bring everyone to your party, and those neon colored clothes would launch your popularity, or this hair gel would send your hair to the greatest heights and cement your cool factor.

It was not authentic.

We grew more jaded in the ’90s when we learned those ’80s ads couldn’t deliver us the fantasy we bought into, and the marketing reflected that. The ads got rebellious with grungy textures and heavy fonts. Celebrities endorsing products skyrocketed, none more famously so than the Got Milk? craze.

Companies said, “If you can’t trust us, trust them.”

And for a while it worked.

Then we hit the 2000s, and once the ’90s solidified the infrastructure of the internet, households were accessible in ways beyond the TV and radio.

“Don’t believe everything you read,” gained a few words: “on the internet.”

The point is, every shift in marketing in the last 30 years is thanks to consumers getting smarter, and being better able to see past the gimmicks.

Consumers haven’t got time for brands that don’t operate with integrity and transparency.

No one wants to fall in love with a product only to find out it’s killing the planet (Keurig, microbeads, and even chopsticks, which requires the annual felling of 3.8 million trees).

Who Do Consumers Trust?

People have more trust in humans than companies, brands, and the biggest bad: Corporate America.

Why is this? Authenticity.

According to a Stackla Report, 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands to support.

The best way to capture authenticity is to have customers who are otherwise unaffiliated with a brand speak on the brand’s behalf. This is user generated content, and it has hefty sway in the world of advertising. If someone with nothing to gain publicly swears by a product, consumers see that as a true testimonial to the value of the product, and by extension, the brand.

How Do Brands Convey Authenticity?

UGC (user generated content) is difficult to secure.

People have to feel passionate enough about a product to take time out of their busy lives to give their opinion. By creating a user experience that taps into their passion, that’s the fastest way to secure that UGC.

GoPro is a master at this. While their competitors spend time talking about lenses and quality, GoPro has become universally beloved for showcasing the people who love their cameras by sharing videos of those users bringing their passion to the digital landscape. GoPro showcases not their cameras, but the vitality and adventurousness of their customers, and the amazing things their cameras can show people doing. GoPro tapped directly into their customers’ inspiration.

Delivering Authenticity

How do you get people to believe in your brand’s authenticity?

First, you have to know what your brand’s authenticity looks like.

What truths are you telling? If you’re breaking into the fast food market with a wholly vegan menu, you know your target market will be skeptical thanks to other companies who haven’t had your integrity.

This means the truth of your business is in the ingredients.

Define your authenticity by providing your audience with information about your food sources. Do you make much of your ingredients from scratch? Provide recipes (maybe not quantities, though. Some things should remain uniquely yours). Show your intended customer that yes, they can trust your cheese is wholly vegan, and here’s how you source it. Define your truth, and your authenticity will soon follow.

Second, speak from the heart.

No acronyms, no jargon, no business-speak. Leave the buzzwords for the talking heads.

Do not be afraid to show your soft underbelly, because being emotional and passionate about your company tells your customers you care about your products.

This video about Canidae pet food tells their origin story, and at about the 3:40 mark, the co-founder, Scott Whipple, becomes visibly emotional when he says, “I’m living my dream.”

As many a pet owner will tell you, pets are family members. Pet owners can trust the Canidae saying that, “What’s on the bag is in the bag.” As a pet owner myself with an animal who faced severe food allergies, that guarantee, that visual representation of the company’s passion goes a long way. That’s a pet food that can be trusted.

Finally, stand up for what you believe in and what’s right.

A company that doesn’t know its own values can’t convey its credibility.

If your team can’t say where your brand stands on certain issues or what’s happening in our society in some of the most divisive times we’ve faced, you come across as ineffectual, or worse, opportunistic, sitting on the sidelines waiting to see who will emerge the victor.

Take a stand. Support family over consumerism like REI does by closing their stores on Black Friday, or other stores refusing to open later in the day on Thanksgiving Day. Pay living wages regardless of what the federal minimum wage number is, like Trader Joe’s or Costco. Be one of the companies making a positive environmental impact.

Those who believe in the same things as you will feel more confident spending their dollars with you.

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