BY CLAUDIAN NAVIN STANISLAUS, PRESIDENT, MALAYSIAN ADVERTISERS ASSOCIATION | BRAND TRANSFORMATION STRATEGIST | CHANGE CATALYST | THOUGHT LEADER | ENTREPRENEUR ADVOCATE | SELF REGULATION PROPONENT | EVANGELIST MARKETER
In today’s dynamic world of modern marketing one buzzword reverberates everywhere; from strategy war rooms to the halls of academia, from industry discourse to the pages of marketing literature—authenticity!
However, frequent misuse and overuse risks diluting its very essence.
The term is dual-faceted, split between the parallels of ‘Marketing Authenticity’ and ‘Authenticity in Marketing’.
‘Marketing Authenticity’ is essentially a commercial gimmick; a crafted illusion designed to project what brands assume consumers will perceive as genuine. In reality it’s like fast food—quick, flashy, but ultimately empty.
‘Authenticity in Marketing’ on the other hand is almost a moral obligation, that should form the very lifeblood of a brand. It’s that home-cooked meal—real, soulful, and satisfying.
They can spot fakes, and they will call you out!
The digital age has given consumers an uncanny ability to spot insincerity—and they won’t hesitate to call you out!
If a brand isn’t anchored in bona fide authenticity, no marketing ingenuity or slick advertising can camouflage that shortfall. It’s not just about what you’re selling; it also involves scrutinizing who is doing the selling.
Let’s put this into perspective with a tale of two spice brands to illustrate the chasm between surface-level authenticity and genuine authenticity.
Imagine a large corporation that ventures into the spice business, branding its offerings as “Pure Malaysian Flavours”. They invest in eye-catching designs that feature traditional Malaysian motifs and enlisting an army of celebrity chefs and influencers as ambassadors in visually stunning campaigns.
These all serve to accentuate their origin story, part of a well-crafted strategy to position the brand as the hallmark of authentic Malaysian flavours.
A deeper probe however reveals the sheathed truth, that the so-called ‘original Malaysian recipe’ is actually a well-calibrated formula, balancing flavour and cost, devoid of the subtleties that Malaysians expect in their spicy cuisine. Never mind the fact that it’s mass-produced in some distant offshore factory.
Surface-level authenticity lacks genuineness
This surface-level authenticity lacks a soul of genuineness, and therefore fails to resonate with the consumers it claims to represent.
In stark contrast stands ‘Rasa Asli,’ a family-run spice brand that grew from humble beginnings. More than just a heartwarming brand story, its foundation on a sincere intention to fulfill the specific culinary needs of the local community fostered a bond with consumers.
Rather than making grandiose claims about tradition and heritage or relying on marketing gimmicks, they represented a deep-rooted commitment to preserving the integrity of Malaysian flavours.
‘Rasa Asli’ doesn’t just market spices; but embraces each customer as a cherished member of an extended family on a mutual crusade.
Loyal customers are the brand’s best ambassadors
And their customers? They are fiercely loyal, with an affinity that is akin to ownership. They are the brand’s most steadfast ambassadors.
This encapsulates the duplicity of how authenticity is communicated: one an investment on a masquerade that may catch the eye, the other a manifestation of authenticity in all it does—which captures the heart.
Authenticity isn’t another arrow in your marketing quiver, or a checkbox on your marketing plan. It’s the ethos that runs through every campaign, product and service you offer; every interaction—and by extension, the marketer too.
Marketers are a brand’s foremost evangelists!
Picture a marketer for a sneaker brand donning a rival’s limited-edition kicks. What does that tell customers? Essentially, “Our shoes aren’t even good enough for us”.
‘Authenticity in Marketing’ is more than a marketing strategy; it’s a personal manifesto. It vibrates at a frequency that you can’t fake. So, toss aside the canned sales pitches. To create a meaningful bond with audience, you must believe in what you’re selling, and sell what you believe in.
I have a heretical proposition
These are the ‘divine’ principles of brand evangelism, a topic I’d gladly delve into over a drink or two. But for now, brace yourselves—I have another proposition that some might deem heretical.
Over the years, the ‘sacred texts’ of marketing have seen a series of rewrites, each edition preaching a contemporary set of strategies designed to navigate the ever-changing marketplace—often tinged with manipulative undertones.
What may appear as incremental shifts can often obscure just how far we’ve deviated from what was originally preached!
Now, let’s stir the pot a bit. As the ‘scripture’ of today calls for us to veer from outdated, product-centric and transactional models to a more holistic approach, perhaps it’s time to question the term ‘marketing’ itself.
‘Consumerising’ better encapsulates the mindset required
Would ‘Consumerising’—a term that places the consumer at the core of all consideration—better encapsulate the seismic shift of mindset required?
This is not just a rebranding of a well-worn concept; it’s an acknowledgment of the transformative pivot needed to evolve relationships from monologues to dialogues.
‘Consumerising’ is a transition to a more relational approach.
Forget about faceless targets in markets to ‘conquer’; instead, form meaningful connections with your community of consumers. Look at the individuals within; each with unique needs and aspirations, and address how the brand can serve them.
The spine of all these complex conversations? Authenticity!
Those who heed this realisation are not just playing with semantics; they could be spearheading a transformation that redefines their relevance in this evolving ecosystem.
There’s a seismic paradigm shift unfolding
Whether ‘Consumerising’ takes the spotlight, or another trendy term steals the stage, the indisputable reality is this, a seismic paradigm shift is unfolding that demands attention.
So here it is, the million-ringgit question—the elephant in the room that’s hard to ignore: Will you remain a mere spectator, tucked away in the wings, or will you be amongst the trailblazers, fully embodying and projecting authenticity in your perpetual conversation with consumers?
Your answer isn’t just a decision; it’s a declaration. One that could indelibly etch your mark on the sands of an ever-shifting landscape.
Will you leave your mark
Authenticity isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the foundation of your relationship with consumers. Will you leave your mark or watch others make history?
It’s time for you to decide. Now.
This article was sourced from LinkedIn
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