“Authenticity” is not a good standard

I will go ahead and say that I really dislike the word “authenticity”.  I find that people often ask gauge authenticity by how successful they are at not being fake or contrived.  It’s like saying you are a good student because you’re not fluking. 


According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of authentic is as follows:

: real or genuine : not copied or false

: true and accurate

: made to be or look just like an original


The problem with gauging your marketing plan based on authenticity is that so often no one know what is the “original”.  Most brands haven’t first defined what they stand for.  Everyone ends up having a different sense of what the brand is about.  Everyone has different view of “real”.  On the other hand, most people have a sense of what the brand is not.  So, what ends up happening is that people gauge authenticity by gauging if they’re off-brand.  But without a solid grounding of what is “real” and “original”, authenticity is just a word that’s thrown around.

Instead of asking if you’re being “authentic”, why not just ask if you’re living your brand value? 

Why use the word “authentic” as substitute of what your brand should stand for? 

If you know what your brand stands for, use that as the gauge.

If your brand is a brand that is designed to speak to Middle America, just ask if this would resonate with Middle America.  Don’t ask if this is authentic. 

If your brand is a brand that’s simple and to-the-point, just ask if a piece of collateral is simple and to-the-point.  Don’t ask if it’s authentic to the brand.

Say what you actually mean, assuming you know what you actually want to say. 

SuperBowl XLIX ad debrief

Who won this SuperBowl?  Okay – Patriots officially, but I argue the following are also big winners:

  • Football fans – good game.  Right down to the last minute.
  • Dads – yes, surely dads watch the game.  But I’ve hardly seen such a celebration of fatherhood.  Some Facebook post suggests that it should have been Father’s Day 2 for the over-the-top dad references this year.
  • Depressed – based on all the sad insurance ads, the depressed folks have some company!
  • Breaking Bad fans – I didn’t understand what do Weight Watchers and Esurance have to do with meth.  But I guess they do.  The ad tells me that meth cooks are experts in the weight loss and insurance biz. 
  • Non-car ad agencies – most car ads this year were pretty non-memorable.  Maybe new business available!  Jeep was most confusing.  Is it American, or do I need to go to Japan to buy it?  I think I’ll fly, not drive, now that I think about it.
  • Crowd-sourced ads– most ads this year were so overproduced, and tried so hard to hit an emotional cord.  I liked the story.  I was moved.  But I had no idea what the brand was or what that brand does.  It’s like screaming “Sex”.  Yeah, you got my attention, but that in itself doesn’t sell a brand.  I see brands go back to crowdsourcing and fire all the agencies…

My favorite ad of the game?  Budweiser Brewed the Hard Way.  I love it when brands don’t try too hard.  First, let me say I love puppies and Clydesdales.  I’ve lived in St. Louis, and I like Budweiser.  But that’s not the reason why that’s my favorite ad.  I love it because the ad remembers that at the end of the day, an ad is not suppose to just tell a story.  An ad is supposed to tell a story about your brand that’s relevant to the target consumer.  I love this Budweiser ad because it did just that.  It’s an ad that’s based on a brand that stood for something.  Smaller brands would have tried to appease the trendsetters in hope of their adoption.  But that is not Budweiser.  Truthfully, it will never be Budweiser.  Rightfully, it should never be Budweiser.  Budweiser is for the everyday American guy.  It’s real.  It’s hard core.  It’s simple.  It’s nothing more than a cold one after a long day of hard work.  It isn’t more, and it doesn’t pretend to be more.  And at the end of the day, it doesn’t need to be more.  It’s perfect for the hardworking American male, just the way it is. 

The funniest ad of the game?  Fiat.  Well, I think it’s funny, and that’s all that matters!

The ad that tugged my heart string while reinforcing the brand – Always #likeagirl.  There were many emotional ads, but this one made sense to me.  Reminds me of Dove ads. 

Most immature and stupid ad – and there are two of them!  No, it isn’t GoDaddy.  They actually grew up (good for them, gimmick can only take you so far.  Even the ad that they pulled wasn’t so bad, but I guess some people didn’t like it).  It’s CURE insurance.  I will assume that I’m not in their target market, and whatever insurance they’re selling, surely I don’t need.  I believe this spot ran in local markets only – not nationally.

Why traditional marketing thinking doesn’t work today

As a marketer, it was drilled into us to be single minded.  What is the one single benefits you want to tout to consumers?  What is that one thing that makes you special?  What is that one thing that differentiates you?

Back in the days of 30 second ads, marketers can really only focus their communication on this single, oh-so-special, benefit.  But social media completely changed that game.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still very important to know what is that oh-so-special differentiator.  That’s something fundamental to your product that is necessary for it to survive in the marketplace.  There is just so many choices, and if you don’t have something special, you won’t stand out.  But that kind of thinking can actually be limiting for a social media campaign. 

Social media campaign is all about content, and a lot of it.  If all that content is going to focus on that one single special benefit, it’s going to get boring very quickly.  It’s one thing to see the same 30 second ad on TV 30 times, it’s quite something else when it comes social channels. 

So, it seems to me that marketing content now needs to be able to tout a variety of benefits and features.  This makes it that much more important to make the product right from the get-go.  Having a good product has always been vital success.  No marketing can save a bad product.  But today, marketing cannot just leverage one unique selling point to push the product.  The product holistically must be designed with the target consumer in mind.  For a food product, everything from sourcing, to recipe, to manufacturing, to packaging is all part of the overall product proposition.  Social media content needs to be drawn from every aspect of a product.  Long gone were the days when marketers can come up with one awesome slogan to push one single awesome feature / benefit.  The product as a whole needs to tell a story.  And an interesting story is always multi-faceted. 

11 Lessons on New Product Launches

Found this great video on new product launch from HBS archive.  While the video may be old, the wisdom within endured the test of time.  So much of this video remains relevant to today’s marketplace regarding new product launches: 

  1. don’t spend too much time in new product development leaving no money for support
  2. don’t fall in love with the product and never listen to the consumers
  3. don’t be too optimistic in your forecast, so the new product will never meet that inflated expectation
  4. have infrastructure to scale in case that new product is successful
  5. you may need to pivot as you learn
  6. you have to anticipate the trends and the changes in the marketplace
  7. fail fast with beta launches
  8. evolutionary products will be hard to break through the clutter
  9. revolutionary products require a lot of education to get the masses to adopt
  10. don’t just consider if your product will change the world, but consider if the world need that change?
  11. continue to build newness, so the early adopters can continue to adopt while the masses follow

Death of Black Friday

I remember when Black Friday was something special.  Then, Cyber Monday was invented, but it wasn’t a big deal.  Then Small Business Saturday jumped onto the bandwagon of what was once a big shopping weekend.

But what was special is no longer.  Black Friday becomes Black Friday weekend.  Cyber Monday became Cyber Week.  And this year, Black Friday specials arrived a month early, and Cyber Monday is turning into a full month up until December 24th.

In retailers’ attempt to fight for the wallet by offering more deals, it actually ruined what made Black Friday special – scarcity. 

People are motivated by value.  People are more motivated by value that’s only available on a limited basis.  By extending the offers, that limitation is gone.  The motivation to go shop is also gone.  Black Friday sales this year was weak, and so was Cyber Monday.  It is the death of the Black Friday. 

People’s shopping habits are changing.  The only question is that marketers and retailers haven’t learned exactly how this change will take shape.  Comments?  Thoughts?