Natural Products Expo
Trish Thomas Teem

The argument for authenticity

Authentic brands should live it and breath it—but not talk too much about it, says this marketer and adviser.

As I’ve been developing my digital marketing presentation for Expo East, it struck me how pivotal brand authenticity is to all my recommendations.

We often focus inordinately on the latest tool or tactic, and as important as it is to utilize cutting-edge technology and pay attention to trends, it’s often more important to emanate something true and real that resonates with people on a personal level.

As marketers, we manipulate a lot. But there is no substitute for a brand that radiates passion, adds real value to people’s lives and takes a stand for something. And you can’t fake a mission-driven organization or product that plants a flag. Consumers are jaded, and they smell the falsehood in your promotions, communications and advertisements instantly.

Why argue for authenticity?

Years in the trenches. Years trying to overcome mediocrity, to rise above passiveness, to make a brand stand out despite its overwhelming ordinariness. And the occasional happy surprise of organic growth and rapid traction with brands that simply build products and services with both their mission and their customers in mind… brands who are solving problems in the world and making people feel good along the way.

What are some hallmarks of authenticity?

• Well, a big one is not harping on how authentic you are. If you have to write "AUTHENTIC" as a brand value or personality trait, you’re probably missing the boat. Live it. Breathe it. Don’t talk about it.

•  Use content to share your vision and passion in a compelling way. Consumers are so hungry for brands to stop interrupting them and start being the thing they are interested in. Share actionable information, inspirational stories and valuable learnings with your community with no hard sell and they will be loyal to you. Not only that, but they will actually buy from you.

•  Leverage partnerships to hit above your weight. I’m always amazed at tiny brands with no market share to defend who treat everyone else in their space as a vicious competitor. Of course you have legitimate direct competitors that you want to take down—that’s capitalism. But there are many aligned companies, influential individuals and potential partners who share your audience, and who can elevate your brand and amplify your message in a very natural way. Work with them.

• Learn to give a hard yes or no. A lot of brands are wishy-washy… it’s not attractive. They sway in the wind of sentiment on a daily basis, trying to test the waters and decide who they will be based what they believe will sell. Does market tenor matter? Of course. Should it tell you who you are? Absolutely not!  Be willing to wholeheartedly embrace what is aligned with your brand and give an emphatic no to what is not.

Seventy-five million millennials in the United States do not like being advertised to. The halcyon days of bloated, successful push-marketing campaigns are over.

Take a lesson from your customers and speak to them in a voice they understand about things that matter to them. 

It may sound impossible in a digital environment, but have a genuine conversation. It will pay big dividends.

Trish Thomas is the CEO of TEEM, a marketing and advertising agency in Boulder built on an independent talent model. She and her team are challenging the status quo in advertising and reimagining the way teams work together to deliver great creative. She is a frequent speaker on leadership, new workforce dynamics, strategy, branding and marketing.

Catch Trish Thomas at Natural Products Expo East.
What: The Internet is Here to Stay: Master Your Digital Presence & Engage Consumers
When: 3:45 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15, 2017
Where: Hilton, Holiday Ballroom 2

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