Every marketing strategy wants to create authentic content.
But authenticity is a rare ingredient that only certain brands achieve, and once they achieve it, they must work hard to preserve it.
Brands with authenticity connect quickly with a large audience of deeply loyal customers. Those customers don’t just like the brand – they trust it. That trust runs so deep that the brand influences an audience’s purchasing preferences.
“But if you can’t buy trust…how do you build it? The same way you do in real life: Through cultivating genuine relationships.”– GRIN, Authentic Influencer Marketing
There’s a great deal of hype around authentic content marketing, as there should be. In this guide, we’re going to discuss how it all works.
“Consumers want to connect with brands that leverage their influence to make a difference. Buyers are attracted to those brands that take risks to connect with members of their audience.”– GRIN, What is Authentic Media and Content?
Authentic content is any media – web page, blog, email, text, social post, etc. – that is honest, compelling, and bigger than a mere product or service. An authentic piece of content often haunts its audience and draws like-minded people together around a particular cause, lifestyle, or set of values.
Thanks to technology and shifts in consumer demand, ecommerce is full of capable brands. The reality is that a host of brands can produce an amazing apparel line, cosmetics, dietary supplements, or nearly anything you can think of.
Online retail empowers innovators from every corner of the globe to create something new or improve upon existing products.
So how does a brand cut through the growing competition and attract the right audience?
The answer is that brands must be more than what they sell. They must recognize how they will improve the quality of life for a very specific group of people.
Without this kind of marketing self-awareness, brands will fail to connect with the right audience, refine the quality of their deliverables, or leverage valuable customer feedback. And on top of everything else, they will blame their mediocrity on external circumstances.
Brands that produce authentic content create messaging that sees the deeper needs behind whatever surface problems their products or services solve.
Authentic content means different things to different industries, businesses, and audiences. But when a brand achieves authenticity, its bottom line improves significantly.
When buyers trust a brand, everything that brand says and does has a greater impact over its competitors. More specifically, marketers can pinpoint the ROI of authentic content in five ways:
Customer acquisition can be expensive. Breaking into new markets, generating brand awareness where there once was none, and nurturing prospects toward their first sale are all major challenges in business.
But if your brand can market itself consistently with authentic content, you build trust with new audiences faster. As a result, you won’t have to work quite so hard to attract new customers.
Brands move buyers through the marketing funnel through various touchpoints. And if you engage your audience with authentic content, each touchpoint becomes more effective at moving prospects closer to a purchase.
Once they’ve made their first purchase and are happy, your ongoing authenticity will further endear customers to your brand. A higher customer retention will dramatically lower your costs and increase your revenue.
In addition to having loyal customers, your authenticity will ensure that customers never outgrow your brand. Because you are deeply connected to your audience, your brand’s greater purpose will proactively meet your customers’ present and future needs even as markets and technologies change.
EMV assigns value to each time you publish content online. The greater the authenticity of your message, the greater the impact of each post, page, and email/text message.
A higher EMV means that you don’t have to spend quite as much time and money on paid advertising. That’s because your organic reach is robust, and you’ve gained the long-term affection of your target audience.
Brands can’t steal authenticity from other brands. However, watching other brands get it right can inspire you to dig a little deeper into your own content marketing approach.
“[We] support sustainable and fair jobs around the globe through ethical sourcing, and working with producers and organizations that have similar goals.”– Darn Good Yarn
Part of Darn Good Yarn’s authentic approach is to embrace a social cause. In this case, the brand advocates for “sustainable and fair jobs around the globe.” To achieve their mission, they regularly draw attention to their overseas yarn makers and carefully vet their business partnerships.
They’ve built their entire manufacturing process around recycling raw materials. The brand doesn’t just sell yarn – it sells yarn a very specific way in an effort to make the world a better place
As a result, the brand can appeal to audiences that share similar values. Furthemore, the brand’s yarn creation process fosters a higher quality product that fans greatly appreciate.
“I don’t take myself too seriously but I’m serious about the right thing. That’s why over 6 million babes have fallen in love with me.”– Frank Body
Frank Body achieves authenticity by leaning into its origin. Not only do the founders share a whimsical launch story, but they’ve creatively given their inanimate product a personality, a name, and an adorable delusion that female customers are in love with it.
But aside from Frank’s humorous self-absorption, the product actually works. It enjoys a social media presence that is nearly 50% positive user-generated content.
The brand shamelessly mocks the “hyperbole” of the wider skincare industry and showcases a product that is ironically both clean and dirty at the same time.
“We’ve all been there before, you find a shirt that fits well but then it is limited in colors, styles or even worse, it disappears from existence since it is part of a one time seasonal collection. We’re changing that.”– Cuts Clothing
Cuts Clothing would be just another men’s shirt designer, except that its message shoots straight to a constant buyer pain point: men find a comfortable, versatile shirt, and the model disappears into the next batch of inventory.
The brand insists on a minimalist style so that its high-quality clothes don’t get lost with fashion fads or appear suited for only one purpose. In this way, they’ve set themselves apart from competitors and promote their branded hashtag, #madethecut.
They are also not afraid to embrace a non-traditional persona of their predominantly male target audience. Their customers may be men, but they are also fathers, romantic partners, and professionals who fly above culture’s attempt to empower toxic masculinity.
“Whether you’re creating an influencer program, or a committee, or an online community forum… purpose is the bedrock of everything else.”– Carrie Melissa Jones, Author of Building Brand Communities
To achieve authenticity, you will first need to identify your brand’s greater purpose. If you or your founders have crafted a mission/vision statement with brand values, then that is a good place to start.
Your products are what you do.
The way you create and deliver your products is how you do it.
And your brand’s greater purpose should answer the questions:
Once you’ve identified your brand’s greater purpose, you can turn your attention to your ideal customers.
The better you know your audience, the easier this step will be. Building buyer personas is a great exercise to help you get a deeper understanding and appreciation for your ideal customers.
To attract your audience, you’ll need to create relevant content. Any message you promote on either your owned or paid channels should point to your brand’s greater purpose and carefully tie it into what you do and how you do it.
This step can be challenging without marketing or copywriting experience. If you lack the resources within your team, you might need to consult an expert.
When adding graphics and design to your message, be sure that they properly complement each other. Again, working with experts will help you get it right the first time.
Even though you feel most comfortable with photography, written content, or video, you should do your best to try all three. Furthermore, you may want to experiment with different variations of those mediums (i.e., lifestyle versus studio photos; long-form versus short-form video; Tweets versus blogs; etc.).
Trying different delivery methods can help you find out which approach best appeals to your audience. After testing different campaigns and content types, your brand will begin to set itself apart.
Rather than trying to get the “next sale,” it will be more helpful to think in terms of establishing a brand community. Your customers should be like-minded people so that they don’t just appreciate what you do, they are champions for how and why you do it.
This mindset will also hold you accountable to tailoring your products and services to those you most want to serve. Otherwise, you might get distracted by buyers that do not fit your ideal customer profile.
It’s impossible to be authentic and play the “blame game.” The fault is never with the economy, industry, or customer. Brands that get this are determined to make a difference in any way that they can.
It’s true that your brand can’t solve every problem that your audience has. But it can assume leadership over those issues that matter most to your brand’s greater purpose. If you’ve properly identified your target audience, then this step won’t feel too overwhelming.
By connecting with like-minded people, you will more easily get user-generated content that you can use in a variety of ways.
Before you reuse UGC, be sure to get permission from the content creator. This is especially critical when partnering with influencers.
You can encourage UGC by asking happy customers to share reviews and testimonials online. These referral posts are great for adding to your website or incorporating into paid ads.
Even after doing everything right, you’ll still notice that some content outperforms other content. If you track results carefully (engagement, link clicks, etc.), you can see which messages, designs, and content types resonate best with your target audience.
Being authentic doesn’t mean that you only ever produce perfect content – it just means that your brand messaging is honest, endearing, and direct. A key part of creating authentic content is refining your content marketing strategy over time as you develop deeper connections with members of your audience.
Authentic brands often have one thing in common – they love partnering with content creators.
Influencers are consumers who have done the work to create authentic content on a regular basis. By partnering with social media power users that genuinely love your brand, you can benefit from the authenticity that your influencers possess and learn a thing or two about authentic content.
Learn more about influencer marketing: Influencer Marketing 101
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