The Revolting Youth – Part 2
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” (Brene Brown)
The word authenticity is the single most critical factor in mobilising positive consumer behaviour and in particular driving advocacy amongst the younger demographic. If you look closely at their behaviour you’ll discover they are forever seeking authenticity in almost everything they care about. In addition, they rally very quickly around brands and celebrities, but more so when they can share and validate the proposed core values with their groups and friends. Refined and rehearsed slogans rarely work unless they can be validated against a list of values often reflected in the personality, the character of the leaders or the marketing promise of a brand through its product.
Without authenticity you lack honesty, and values. How can you possibly project the values or beliefs of your brand without an emotional context? It's a human scientific fact that we have to feel something (emotionally) before we act and the younger demographic are acutely tuned to their feelings.
So how do marketers project and embrace authenticity?
The Pepsi Challenge
In 1975 Pepsi genuinely believed their product tasted better than that of Coca Cola and such was that belief they were prepared to risk their brand’s reputation to prove it. Through providing consumers the option to taste both drinks and judge which was better than the other, Pepsi had achieved what they had aimed for; the majority of people had chosen Pepsi as the drink with a better taste. A brave move wouldn’t you say? This campaign has laid bare a new ‘experiential’ way for brands and large corporates to engage in an open and honest relationship with their customers.
The Pepsi Challenge has also featured in much of Pepsi’s TV advertising.
Beware, you cannot impersonate authenticity and dilute this honesty. Take Sony for example, in 2006 they made a massive error of judgement when they launched their PSP hand held console (Playstation Portable), whose target audience, were, not surprisingly smart, tech savvy youths. Someone somewhere high up the Sony corporate ladder thought it would be a good idea for a group of adults to sit at computers and attempt to create a viral tidal wave across forum groups. The outcome spelled disaster for them. The kids quickly recognised that these adults were infiltrators of their world and treated them like outsiders. Sony were rather embarrassingly caught out – by their own arrogance it would seem.
Authenticity is inextricably linked to transparency. This is key in the modern advertising-savvy marketplace. Bad fakes can be spotted a mile away, and good fakes often get found out with a fanfare of negativity. The reaction was a swift global mounted backlash by the angry youth culture who saw the corporate dudes taking the p**s in their space....it was not appreciated!
This iconic cool brand was left reeling with a boycott of the product (ouch!). Any authenticity this brand earned over the years was literally destroyed over-night, many of the Sony bosses and their agency leaders fell on their swords.
Let me briefly explain what channels are best to create advocacy, loyalty and reinforce authentic brand behaviour.
Firstly, engaging with as many human senses is crucial to building an emotional relatable context.
If you look at the recent Corbyn phenomenon (as some are calling it) we are able to observe a real honesty and integrity through his body language and other key human behaviours. No one can deny that his story is more believable and in particular that he delivered it with more conviction in his appeal with the youth vote. This was a striking contrast to a rather wooden, rehearsed narrative where it was difficult to believe and find authentic characteristics in what Mrs May had to say to the electorate.
With most brands or products we can’t look anything human in the eye or judge on human behaviours. There are, of course, exceptions to that rule, such as Steve Jobs or Elon Musk – where the very brand is a clear manifestation of their own personal vision, beliefs and values. These exceptional characters create global human movements who foster a powerful belief. This example of authenticity is fundamentally projected through all of their products and how they communicate with their loyal consumers/fanbase. If you’re not quite Tesla or Apple what we can do with brands and products is develop a two-way experience which allows customers to engage with the values and promises signposted in our everyday media. You could say that products have to grow a personality that can be tested and validated in a tangible human sense before they gain authenticity.
There is no other way to do this other than engaging your target audience by using experiential marketing techniques including associated technology.
Using experiential marketing techniques to expose the essence of your product we ought to include as many human senses as possible. Touch, taste, sound, smell and sight are the best behaviour primers for people. The benefits of utilising experiential with the young consumer is that it feeds their instinctive ability to explode these positive experiences in seconds across social networks, creating a viral word of mouth that literally mobilises sentiment and loyalty.
For brands to capture the power of authenticity marketers should be looking closely at the values of the brand or proposition of the product and instilling these into authentic creative brand experiences. These experiences bring all audiences including the young demographic into moments that maximise the marketing mix effectively.