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Ditching Deception in the Rise of Authentic Marketing

In 19 years as a content marketing professional, I’ve worked across dozens of companies and even more products. I’ve witnessed a myriad of marketing strategies come and go. And while that’s given me ample opportunity to hone my strategic skills based on facts, hard data, and metrics, it’s also given me the chance to see which approaches do and do not feel right.


In short, I’ve had time to define my values when it comes to how I prefer to talk about brands, products, and the like.


It’s no secret that in this industry, there are tactics that can lean a bit towards deception. Early in my career, I was witness to more of these conversations than I liked. One good example: I was working on a subscription-based product (a decently famous and very profitable one). While I was on that team, a frequent topic of conversation was how transparent to be with current customers about upcoming subscription renewals. I owned the communications that went to that segment and I was often asked to make upcoming credit card charges (along with opportunities to cancel ahead of time) a whole lot less clear. My management team’s hope? That if we avoided alerting current subscribers to the upcoming charge, they'd continue the subscription unwittingly. And they did. Even though I always made upcoming renewals crystal clear in my lifecycle campaigns as often as I was allowed to, forgotten subscriptions was a major revenue stream for this team. And the marketing leadership was keen to embrace and encourage that.


I hated it. Marketing in a way that meant surprise costs and potential financial hardship for our customers felt disingenuous. It didn’t feel honoring of the worthiness of our product or the respect we had for our customers. And it didn't align with my values.


I’ve come a long way in my career since then and, fortunately, I’m in a position to easily walk away from marketing gigs that insist on operating like that. But it’s perhaps because of those experiences that I’ve come to really value radical authenticity in marketing. And, well, every other part of my life too.

Image of marketing team

I’m passionate about finding the right combination of words that authentically brings a product or offering to life—singing loudly and clearly about what a brand is, what it stands for, and what it can do for a potential customers’ wellbeing. I admire a team that has the gumption to define and declare exactly what they are. And just as importantly, what they are not.


I think that confidence resonates with potential customers! And it sure goes a long way toward building trust.


And yeah, it might mean your marketing is a turn off for folks who aren’t a good fit. I personally think that can be a really good thing. A lot of my career has been spent specifically facilitating customer retention. A big part of that is not acquiring the wrong customers in the first place! You do that by actively (gently, kindly) dissuading the ones for whom your product just isn’t right. And that kind of up-front honesty can mean the customers you DO convert are more likely to have a good time. They’re more likely to stay around a lot longer, to have higher average transaction values, and spread the good word about their experience with you to more potential customers like them.


Authenticity isn't just a buzzword for me; it's a guiding principle in everything I do. And right now, it’s also a red-hot marketing trend. A response to changing consumer demands. After all, a full 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support, according to a recent report by Stackla.


So, how can brands embrace radical authenticity in their marketing?


It starts with a change of mindset. A strong sense of who you are, who you’re right for, and who you’re not. From that point, it’s all about taking the plunge and changing the way you talk when you’re marketing your product.


Specifically, these are four tactics to try:


  1. Be Transparent: Share your brand's story, values, and mission with your audience. Transparency builds trust and credibility.

  2. Embrace Imperfections: Don't be afraid to show the human side of your brand, including mistakes and challenges. Authenticity lies in being genuine, flaws and all.

  3. Listen and Engage: Actively listen to your audience's feedback and engage in meaningful conversations. Show that you value their input and are committed to meeting their needs.

  4. Tell Compelling Stories: Use storytelling to humanize your brand and connect with consumers emotionally. Share authentic stories that resonate with your audience's values and experiences.


Our days are inundated with marketing messages. Radical authenticity is a breath of fresh air. It's not about playing games or tricking customers; it's about building genuine connections based on trust and mutual respect.


Let's embrace authenticity wholeheartedly and redefine what it means to market with integrity and transparency. Want to talk about weaving this into your next campaign? Drop us a line. I’d love to talk.

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