When you do work under the umbrella of a loaded word like marketing, it can be hard to cut through the preconceived opinions. Let’s play a quick word association to demonstrate the point: we say marketing, and you think __________________. Did the words impersonal, mechanical, or calculated come up, or something equally negative? We hope not! But we feel it all the time.

Authentic Marketing 1Confessedly, I’m totally there with you. Until I started doing this work myself, I had that same ick feeling when I heard that word. But now I do this work. I visit entrepreneurs in their offices as they steal valuable moments away from their business to ask me: how do I communicate what it is I’m building here - these problems I'm trying to solve? And how do I get the message in front of the right people who believe what I believe, and will benefit from it?

What I’ve learned is that this word marketing is a neutral one. In a loud media world, often the marketing ideas with the most money behind them are the ones you see, which unfortunately can be the ones with the most crafted (read: inauthentic) agenda. Fortunately, there are a lot of charities and companies that are doing it right.

The marketing campaigns that excite me are all loaded with authenticity. They’re human, relatable, and true... and they confirm my belief in something. They evoke a state of emotional trust that makes me want to jump on their proverbial band wagon, wherever it is they want to take me. Examples like Southwest Airlines come to mind; or Under Armour’s I Will What I Want Campaign and their Beautiful Challenge campaigns; or, if you want a good laugh, Newcastle Brown’s anti-super bowl, non-commercial thing.

What is pretty confusing is that relating on this shared humanity level has become… a trend? According to Hubspot in an article from December 2014, Human to Human Marketing was the next big thing. So what do you think: has the trend stuck? In a technological age where we are inconvenienced by a phone call or face-to-face meeting, perhaps it has become a new and noteworthy idea again. And, by extension, authenticity has, too.

How did we start to get it so backwards? No wonder we’ve developed a cynical attitude toward marketing. In a classic talk from 99U, Simon Sinek, Leadership Expert and Author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, talks about this in great detail (and the half hour talk is worth the listen if wanna multi-task while eating your brown bagged lunch). He says it best here:

"The entire process of asking other people who we should be is inauthentic. We’re going to do a study to find out from other people how we can be more authentic. That’s hilarious. Organizations should do the things they actually believe, and they will attract the kind of people who believe what they believe!”

Our part, as marketers, or designers, Sinek claims, is to “put what they believe into pictures, into words, into symbols and graphics so that other people can use those things to say something about who they are and what they believe.” For us at Marketing Multi-tool, it means asking those we work with to dig a little deeper.  Sinek famously reminds us that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” So you sell electric rakes. Or cloth diapers, or insulated water bottles. Why? What problem do you help solve? What greater sense of service is involved? 

That's the business we're in, and that’s the place the conversation starts for us here. That’s what we mean when we talk about marketing, and we’re doubling down to reclaim that word. Stay tuned if you’re interested in this whole human trend… it’s where our band wagon is headed in the future.

Megan Lambe is the Project Lead and Chief Visionary Officer at The Marketing Multi-tool.


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