Consumers have been inundated with marketing that promises the entire world in exchange for just a bit of their hard earned money. They’re besieged by empty promises, logical fallacies and celebrity endorsements, and consumers have become seriously jaded, harder to impress. The latest trend in marketing may surprise you, but it’s worthy of notice because it actually works. Ready for it? Authentic marketing. Yes, as it turns out, telling the truth is best after all. (See, your mother was right!)
Consumers want to spend their dollars on companies they can relate to. They want to know your story, warts and all—that’s what makes you stand out from your competitors, after all. This new marketing strategy presents a challenge: It’s no longer about finding out what the consumer wants to hear, but rather it’s about telling your story in a compelling way, a way that invites the consumer to feel like part of your corporate family.
Before you simply start rattling off your story, check out these tips for crafting your story the right way.
1. Exploit the "phoenix effect." The mythical phoenix is consumed by fire and rises, reborn, from its ashes. Consumers dig this story, and that's what the phoenix effect is all about. Think of the Hollywood movies where the hero has the perfect life, wife, kids, job, until it’s shattered by the bad guys who strip him of everything he values. The whole rest of the movie has moviegoers rooting for the protagonist to not just survive, but thrive under adversity. People love the underdog, and with a little creativity, you can sell yourself that way.
2. Craft your tale. Clif Bar is a great ordinary-guy-makes-good tale. The website tells the tale of the startup based not on the desire to achieve an estimated $508 million in 2012 revenue, but on the desire to create a better energy bar. Folksy tales of the founder’s wife peddling Clif Bars with a baby on her hip make consumers want to support the business. Consumers crave a connection with your business. Give it to them.
3. Don't evoke pity. You don’t want to sell your tale as a sad one, because if customers feel sorry for you, it’s because they see no hope for your situation. You want to inspire support and excitement in your customers, rather than begging for a handout.
4. Avoid creating envy. While you don’t want potential customers to feel sorry for you, you also don’t want the other end of the spectrum. Think about Donald Trump. While we may admire his skill at amassing wealth, we don’t perceive him as a nice guy—a guy whose corner we’re in. We don’t necessarily want to see him achieve greater success. We don’t feel good about enriching him further. Your goal should be to show that you’re as human as your customers. You’re working to create a bond.
5. Have an enemy. You may need to think figuratively here, but it’s the struggle that casts you as the underdog. Maybe you’re a small retailer going up against a huge, soulless corporation. Maybe you’re fighting to change an old, outdated mentality. Whatever your cause, you want to enlist your customers in your struggle to make the world a better place. You want your customers to think of you as the underdog that just needs their support to make it big.
6. Involve your community. Whether it’s interactive social media or participation in a local fundraiser, encourage your customers to invest in their community and in you as a vital, valuable member of that community. Demonstrate that you’re willing to work to champion important local causes and offer citizens the chance to do the same. The idea is to get your community invested in your success and dedicated to seeing you succeed.
Though authentic marketing flies in the face of traditional marketing with its sizzle, flash and empty promises, what it offers is the chance to forge a meaningful connection with the customers you serve. Consumer loyalty is priceless, and it’s not won by businesses who have to fib about their products. Consumer loyalty is built on the foundation of honest, ethical business and solid value. It’s built on authenticity.
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