• Lucas North

Why you should make authenticity your goal for 2021

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Photo: BBC

MAJOR BRAND NAMES often talk about speaking with an authentic voice.

When they say authentic, they tend to mean being genuine, being honest, keeping it real.

Keep that in mind as you read the first words on Dove’s website:

Welcome to Dove… the home of real beauty. For over a decade, we've been working to make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety, and here's where the journey continues.

Older, greyer, fatter models

Dove backs up this statement with promotions that feature people who are often a lot older than we’re used to seeing in most advertising campaigns. They've also featured plus-size women.

Dove understood skinny teens wouldn't wash with its audience

Had Dove used the kind of attractive, skinny teenagers who feature in many ads, customers would have seen the disconnect between what the company says and what it does. Because people notice when words and actions don’t match up.

I won’t name brands whose words and actions don’t match up. Most of us have our own pet mis-matchers. Mis-matchers that push out messages about caring for their team members, their customers, the environment, etc, etc. You may have noticed they tend to share these kinds of messages A LOT.

But, invariably, stories from inside those companies leak out: stories about widening pay gaps between the highest and lowest paid workers; poor working conditions; awful customer relations; and policies and practices that are as good for the environment as plastic bags.

As usual, there’s an unusually high number of callers

Indeed, the stories don’t need to leak out from inside those companies. As customers, we experience the truth ourselves. For example, we’ve all hung on a phone line waiting for a response from a company that is ‘experiencing an unusually high volume of calls at the moment…’

Your words and actions need to match

How well is that company looking after its team members who have to deal with irate customer after irate customer? The customers are irate because they’ve been forced to wait for 20 minutes or more to speak to a human being. Companies that are always experiencing a high volume of calls are simply not employing enough people to answer the phones.

If you are a decision-maker in one of those companies, guess what? We can see the join between what you say and what you do.

The real deal

The crazy thing is authenticity can be very lucrative. After launching its Real Beauty campaign in 2004, Dove’s sales were reported to increase by 700 per cent.

Mega-brands could learn from a 23-year-old footballer

So, as the year comes to a close, I’ll also end this rant by pointing those push inauthentic messages towards a TV programme they should find useful.

The eponym of 'Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain's Children' speaks with the kind of authentic voice many brand managers, sales and marketing directors and company execs could learn a lot from.

For anyone who spent 2020 squeezing glue in the gap between their words and actions, Marcus Rashford is a footballer who didn't simply speak out against child food poverty: he backed up his words with actions.

Policy-changing action

Actions that led to the provision of free school meals in England during holidays. Actions that prompted major changes in government policy.

I won’t bang on about authenticity any longer because Marcus Rashford gets the message across more eloquently than me.

But, if the Manchester United and England striker is beyond your budget, I would be happy to help you communicate in an authentic voice.

‘Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain’s Children’ airs tonight on BBC One at 7pm.

Thanks for reading.

Have a great Christmas and New Year.

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