Marketing 101: What Do Relatability and Authenticity Truly Mean?

Picture by Chris under CC BY-SA 2.0 Creative Commons License

Happy New Year to anyone reading this blog! It’s strange, on the internet, I keep hearing about how horrible 2016 was and I can’t help wondering, was I the only one who had a good year? Besides, I’m perplexed by the mass lack of relativism. If I had to choose between 1944 and 2016 or any years during the slave trade or a civil war, well I would take 2016 for sure! Things are not perfect, but they could be a lot, lot worse.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk some more about relatability and authenticity two marketing buzzwords, I briefly commented on a couple of weeks ago. Relatability would stand for the ability of a brand to connect with its audience by sharing similar taste, views or opinion. As for authenticity, it supposes that brands are true to themselves, honest, an even better word would be genuine. I said in my previous post that both are like any marketing tools, in the sense that they can be assessed, analysed and measured.

Even though, I would rather work for business, I have a serious interest in pop culture, notably, I’m quite fascinated by how online influencers (vloggers, bloggers), despite not necessarily offering anything out of the ordinary are able to gain such mass following and become celebrities in their own right. I also enjoy analysing what make is it about celebrities and politicians that make people tick.

I have come to the conclusion that when we talk about relatability and authenticity, we’re essentially talking about pleasing the audience by sharing something of ourselves that will make them connect to us. It’s about finding out whatever the audience likes or the opinion they resonate with and having or at least pretending to have the same taste or opinion. You can be very passionate about an issue, and your point of view may be the right one. But if it is not the opinion en vogue, you’re risking a lot.

I probably sound pessimistic or cynic. I am not (or so I hope). I’m not saying that brands or famous individuals aren’t or can’t be genuine. What I’m saying, however, is that their messages, their narrative is (and has to be) heavily regulated because they need to establish long-lasting connection.

Let’s say a brand (company or individual) tell their audience that they’re a massive fan of Beyonce and love her latest album Lemonade. Whether you like her or not, right now Beyonce is THE celebrity. She’s recognized as one of the best entertainer of our time, a feminist icon of a sort and someone who cares about social issues. People love her and so does the media.

Sharing one’s love for her will result in the approval barometer going up for a brand. I took Beyonce has a generic example. The opinions a brand decides to share depends on its identity and objectives. If you’re a company selling skating gears, being a fan of Beyonce or seeming to, would not necessarily help you to reach your target demography. Inversely, if you sell trendy clothes or make-up it may be a good way to build a relation with potential customers.

The other side of the coin is to assess what would offend, annoy or stun potential customers so as to not alienate them. I’ll give you a few simple examples using politics. In the current social and political climate, saying that you don’t mind Putin or that you weren’t supporting Hillary Clinton during the US election would be akin to brand suicide. By the way, even though I took politics as exemples, be reminded that this is all they are: examples. I would not recommend brands to talk politics or religion, however well-meaning and right they may be. These two topics are PR nightmare in the waiting due to their divisive nature. Besides, people can easily twist words.

Another thing, I think is needed to be mentioned is how race, age, gender, sexual orientation, social class and education level affect how what someone says will be perceived. Still using the two examples from earlier, a white man saying that he didn’t support Clinton would not impact the public the same way it would have if a white woman had said the exact same thing. And a white woman commenting on her dislike of Clinton would not necessarily have the same meaning as a black women expressing her antipathy of the US Secretary of State. This part of communication often tends to be overlooked.



So what do you think about what I’ve shared? Agree? Disagree? How do YOU connect with potential customers? How much do you think brand should share? What works and what doesn’t?


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