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How to Make Your Marketing Less Cringeworthy and More Authentic Companies are needing to completely re-shift their marketing strategy to win customers' trust. Here are a few ways businesses can show authenticity in their marketing.

By Sabrina Chevannes Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Authenticity has become such a buzzword these days that it's almost lost all its meaning! The dictionary literally defines the word authentic as: "not false or copied; genuine; real", but yet, there are so many people out there desperately seeking people's help to come across as authentic.

Is getting someone else to make you seem authentic already in breach of said word? But isn't marketing, by nature, the opposite of authentic? So, how on earth do you offer authenticity in your marketing and branding?!

Related: Are You Coming Across as Authentic?

Why authenticity is important

Let's face it: We're living in a world where people are becoming more and more skeptical about brands and simply do not know who to trust anymore, because marketing has become so clever.

In a recent article in AdWeek, global agency Havas released the results of their Meaningful Brands survey, and the results were terrifying. People stated that they would not care if 75% of brands disappeared, and 71% of customers are tired of brands' empty promises. Also, 64% of people would pay more for brands who are for a purpose rather than for a profit.

The world has completely changed since the pandemic, and brands have more pressure on them now more than ever to show people that they actually care. So, why is authenticity important in business? Well, it's all about trust. It's a lot harder to gain a consumer's trust now, and the well-polished marketing messages are just not getting through like they used to.

Brands that show their "real" side are not just seeing an increase in sales but are attracting better talent, too. A survey conducted by the Org showed that 80% of millennials said that their work life would be better if their companies were more transparent.

Related: How to Build an Authentic Brand

How companies can be authentic in marketing

Companies are now needing to completely re-shift their marketing strategy. What was once the norm — requesting a huge advertising budget and celebrity endorsement — is now frowned upon by many. So, how do companies adapt and show authenticity in marketing?

First up … just tell the truth. That's what authenticity is at the end of the day. We're not saying that you need to disclose financial reports and expose every corporate drama, but just don't lie to your consumers. These things always have a way of coming out, and the negative PR that comes from episodes like that is just too difficult to come back from.

Honesty is almost always the best policy, and your consumers will thank you for it. A little humility when things aren't as perfect as usual doesn't show weakness. It just shows you're human. You will be surprised as to how many people will support you through this journey.

Look how much of a shift there has been to help small businesses since the pandemic — there's a huge sense of community when people are going through tough times, and this wouldn't have happened if people weren't honest about how business was really going. Here are a few more ways for businesses to show authenticity in marketing:

  • Stay true to the brand: Whatever you do, you need to stay true to your brand. So many people try to jump on a trend, because it's worked for competitors, or they recruit the latest reality TV star as their brand ambassador, because they're the "hottest thing right now." But have a think about whether these trends or people are genuinely right for your brand. Choosing the wrong person can actually have a detrimental impact on your brand, so do your research on their background, and ensure your values align.

  • Show them that you care: You may genuinely really care about your customers and talk about it all the time internally, but you may not be communicating it enough in your external communications. This could be as simple as a loyalty discount or a free gift with a purchase, but the little things will mean a lot.

  • Listen to your customers: At the end of the day, they're the ones buying your product/service, so listen to the feedback they're providing, and don't get defensive. Admit when you're wrong, and announce improvements to your product/service in response to customer feedback. It will show your customers you are genuinely there for them.

  • Use data analysis for your marketing: The beauty of digital marketing is that you have the luxury of statistics and analytics to help you do your job better. Back up what you do with data, rather than just doing things in an overly promotional manner. Have a reason for all your marketing messages.

Related: How Authentic Marketing Is Key to Building a Loyal Audience

How entrepreneurs can be authentic on social media

Another huge topic I'm often caught in conversation about is how entrepreneurs can introduce authenticity into their personal brand. I've often found this one rather intriguing, because your "personal" brand is exactly that — personal. So, it should already be authentic. The problem is, it's now become an "art," and the personal brand is just like any other form of marketing. So, how can entrepreneurs remain authentic on social media without being too "cringe?"

The beauty about the life of the entrepreneur is that it's fast-paced, exciting and full of stories and lessons learned. My advice is to share those lessons/stories. Ignore what everyone else is doing and what posts are going viral on LinkedIn, as those are short-lived. You will just blur into the huge pool of other entrepreneurs doing the same thing if you get caught up in trends.

Share your personal journeys, but definitely keep it "real," and don't approach it with the angle of trying to "go viral" or creating a sob story, as people are getting irritated by that type of content. Try writing material on social media in the same way you'd be telling a friend about what's been happening at your catch-up session, and it will come across as authentic and genuine — and people will thank you for it.

Sabrina Chevannes

Founder of N0BS - a members club for entrepreneurs

Sabrina Chevannes is the founder of N0BS, a members club for entrepreneurs | Founder of the No Bullsh*t agency | International Chess Master | Best-selling author | MENSA Member | Sustainability Advocate | Executive MBA | Chartered Marketer | Podcaster | Board Advisor | University Lecturer

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