People are instinctively drawn to brands that are considered more authentic than their competitors. How can your brand win?

Authentic stories help you build emotional connections with customers. But how can you relate your stories back to the target audience?

Below are four tactics that can help add a layer of authenticity to your content marketing.

Start with a clear purpose

Many writers say that there is really only one rule for good writing: show, don't tell. It means that in order to convince your readers, make sure to demonstrate what you offer with details. But before you add detailed information, you have to think what you want to convey in the story.

Similarly, when you create a story for your brand, you need to start with a clear purpose and then build content around that purpose so readers can imagine and care about your story.


“The clearer brands are about their purpose, the more they can use that as a filter for decisions and interactions in advertising. If brands do not have a clear agenda, consumers will not know how to evaluate them,” says Brandon Murphy, chief strategy officer at agency 22squared.

Refinery29, a hybrid of content and e-commerce shopping, is a good example in this regard. The company positions itself as a destination for stylish women. Then it develops content around subjects that this demographic cares about: fashion, living, beauty, health and entertainment et cetera.

The site had 15.9 million unique visitors in March of this year, up 9.2 million from the same period a year prior.


In 2014, 83 percent of Refinery29’s revenue (approximately more than $50 million) came from native advertising, according to the company. It shows that Refinery29 readers and shoppers really buy into the brand’s purpose.

Encourage consumers to get involved

Once (Read more...) have a clear purpose, you should study your audience’s behaviors and develop content that benefits the target community.

“When we develop authentic content for our clients, we do lots of research to build cultural footprint to understand what’s happening in their target community and where we can provide value,” says Trevor Guthrie, co-founder of agency Giant Spoon that handles GE’s media strategy and execution.

Guthrie gives an example of GE’s 12-foot brisket smoker in South by Southwest (SXSW) last year. The giant BBQ cooker was designed to demonstrate the connection between GE’s high-tech industrial systems and data analytics in an easy-to-understand way.

Inside the smoker, five sensors constantly measured the temperature, humidity and smoke velocity. These stats showed up in real time on a nearby screen. Attendees could tweet out their experience with the hashtag #BBQqscience.

“How could GE communicate with SXSW attendees? We figured that everyone in Austin knew BBQ,” Guthrie says. “GE researchers and scientists gave their point of view around craft BBQ and we saw authentic conversations happening there.”

Of course, you may not have the budget to build a big eye-catching project like GE. But you can use consumers’ social footprint to promote your products and services. For example, you can ask consumers to submit photos on social, or encourage them to share whatever they are passionate about.

“It doesn’t necessarily need to be a big complicated ad campaign. Sometimes you just need to think ‘what are the reasons people may want to talk about us?’ and then give them the trigger,” 22squared’s Murphy says.

Unleash the power of influencer marketing

In order to connect with consumers more directly, more organically and at scale, you need to make sure your voice is not just yours. One way to do this is influencer marketing.

A May 2015 study by marketing research firm Schlesinger Associates shows that 69 percent of more than 600 marketing professionals said that that their influencer engagement strategy was effective, and 84 percent expected to launch at least one campaign involving an influencer in the next 12 months.

Many major brands have adopted this tactic. In June of this year, Dr Pepper collaborated with social-influencer marketing startup Speakr to launch an influencer marketing campaign across Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Periscope.

The campaign tapped into popular show "Lip Sync Battle" to celebrate #OneofaKindLipSync. Speakr’s social influencers posted on different platforms and invited their followers to join them at the Lip Sync Booth in Times Square.

The campaign generated more than one million social engagements within a week after its debut.

Other brands like Sour Patch Kids and Nine West also teamed up with influencers to disseminate content to the people who care.

Honesty helps

When you have a clear purpose and build content around that purpose, you need to be transparent about how to live up to your purpose. In other words, it’s fine to admit your weakness and mistakes.

“Most of the time consumers feel more loyal to a brand when the brand is honest about its problems,” Murphy says.

Honesty gives a brand a human touch. Car-rental service Avis’ iconic “We Try Harder” tagline lasted for 50 years before it was replaced by "It's Your Space” in 2012. “We Try Harder” didn’t hide the brand’s number two status at the time.

The campaign was a huge success for Avis, helping the company go from losing $3.2 million to turning a profit of $1.2 million for the first time in 13 years.


People are instinctively drawn to brands that are considered more authentic than their competitors. In order to stand out, you have to be clear on your purpose and give your audience the ability to tell their own stories about your brand. And, of course, you will get more business with honest marketing.

Homepage image via Flickr

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