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Fostering Authenticity in Marketing During Times of Social Unrest

Fostering Authenticity in Marketing During Times of Social Unrest

In today's climate of heightened social awareness and the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, the importance of authenticity in marketing cannot be overstated. Seriously. Authenticity is a key in marketing.

Modern consumers are more socially and politically conscious than ever before. Mere lip service or "virtue signaling" is no longer enough to satisfy consumers. They now demand substantive action from the brands they support.

In our current landscape, marked by global protests against racial injustice, companies are under immense pressure to publicly denounce discrimination and solidify their commitments to diversity and inclusion. 

This article examines why authenticity matters and how you can use it to connect your audience to your brand. Ready to get into it? Let’s go.

Why This Matters

Regardless of the approach taken, companies must exercise caution when addressing current events, particularly those related to social justice or polarizing political issues.

Businesses have accumulated extensive digital footprints on their websites and social media profiles in the digital age. Consumers can quickly and easily scrutinize a company's history and determine which brands are merely paying lip service and which ones genuinely care.

Any inauthentic or misleading statements regarding a company's commitment to diversity and equal rights can be swiftly exposed, ridiculed, and shared widely across the internet.

Taking Action Instead of Making Empty Statements

Authenticity in marketing has always been a best practice, but its significance is magnified in times of social unrest and a global pandemic like COVID-19. Campaigns revolving around current events and social issues make companies more vulnerable to profound scrutiny.

For instance, Amazon released a commercial during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing gratitude to its "heroic" employees and emphasizing its dedication to their health and safety. 

While the ad appeared heartfelt, it became evident that Amazon was not adequately addressing employee concerns about workplace safety, as evidenced by employee strikes. This inconsistency between words and actions did not go unnoticed.

Similarly, the NFL has faced challenges in addressing racial injustice. Despite recent social media posts condemning systemic racism and police violence, the league's stance appeared hypocritical to many due to its punitive actions against players who knelt during the national anthem to protest these issues two years prior. Such inconsistencies have raised questions about the NFL's sincerity.

Companies should avoid sharing generic, hollow, or hypocritical sentiments during these times. Instead, they should embrace humility, acknowledge their mistakes, and commit to improvement. 

This humility and authenticity resonate with consumers and contribute to building long-term trust. Research indicates that companies engaged in corporate social responsibility attribute 40% of their public reputation to their CSR efforts.

So, What Can You Do?

Authenticity can sometimes devolve into mere lip service as companies seek to improve their image without substantive action. To help brands maintain authentic and effective campaigns during times of unrest, consider these four essential tips.

Seek External Perspectives

Marketing teams often develop campaigns internally, relying on their expertise and product knowledge. However, addressing topics like global health and racial injustice may require external perspectives to maintain thoughtfulness and sincerity in messaging. Engage experts from outside your organization to provide valuable insights and avoid the pitfalls of internal groupthink.

Connect with Experienced Brand Leaders

Reach out to brand leaders who have navigated challenging messaging situations during uncertain times. Their insights can provide valuable perspective and help you avoid unexpected difficulties. Additionally, solicit feedback from your target audience to better understand their preferences and needs.

Listen Actively and Validate Feedback

When customers or employees express concerns about your company's response to current events, pay close attention to their feedback. Avoid reading between the lines or making assumptions; instead, mirror their language and validate their concerns. Show that you understand their perspective.

Apologize Without Reservations

A sincere apology, without caveats or explanations, can be powerful. Apologize for past transgressions, even if they occurred years ago. Avoid deflecting blame onto others or offering half-hearted apologies. Express genuine remorse and a commitment to learn and evolve.

Authenticity isn't just a buzzword; it's foundational for trust and public reputation. For individuals navigating these times, consider seeking external perspectives, connecting with experienced leaders, actively listening, validating feedback, and apologizing without reservations. 

Authenticity requires continuous follow-through and aligning actions with core values. Ready to fortify your personal brand's authenticity? Consider these strategies and take deliberate steps toward impactful communication.

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