What Exactly is “Authentic”?

Authentic marketing – Isn’t that an oxymoron? Let’s face it historically the world of marketing has not been one where you would immediately relate truth with message. But times they are a changing, and today’s audience is quick to point out when we stretch the truth too far. (A topic I wrote about back in June 2009). But what about being authentic? – What does it mean to say that your content marketing efforts should reflect the authentic voice of your brand.

The dictionary definition of the word “authentic” according to Meriam-Webster is that it represents something that is “real or genuine: not copied or false.”

The chances are that your brand has an underlying brand promise or set of values that define you as a business. It’s what you are in business to do. To be “authentic” your content should reflect and communicate those values. Your messaging doesn’t have to parrot your brand promise verbatim, but the words, tone, images, colors, and the value of what you deliver should clearly support what the brand means to your customers.

Consider the kings of Content Marketing – Red Bull. They are all about energy. Their brand promise is that they “ will increase (their customer’s) performance, concentration, reaction speed, vigilance, and even well-being.”


It’s arguable whether a can of caffine achieves those result in a healthy way, but it’s clear that their whole marketing effort from the “Red Bull gives you wings” tagline to their global sports and events sponsorship programs where people excel at extreme physical activities are an authentic reflection of the brand’s values and promise.

2 thoughts on “What Exactly is “Authentic”?

  1. Well, that’s interesting. What if — as you yourself hinted — Red Bull’s whole marketing message is, well, bull? What if their product doesn’t increase their customer’s performance, well-being, etc.?

    I’m not saying that’s the case. (I don’t know.) But I think authenticity needs to be more than simply being “on message” all the time. It needs to be that, plus honesty and sincerity. Hey customers, you can trust us. We’re shooting straight. No bull.

    • Hmmm, I don’t necessarily think authentic is related to whether the message is “good” or “healthy.” However, in the Red Bull example, I would agree authentic might not be the best description. The product is marketed as giving you energy, which is true and honest, but it doesn’t say how. By sponsoring athletic events, I would say there is an implication that “hey, drink this and you can do that!” However, if you actually do drink a lot of Red Bull, you’ll probably be in the hospital rather than skydiving.

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