Archives for posts with tag: authenticity


As a business, it’s easy to rationalize decisions:

Try finding a decent kids meal in an average restaurant. 99% of the time you’re stuck with grilled cheese sandwich, basic spaghetti or chicken fingers with fries. While the majority of kids might enjoy these choices, there are many kids and their parents that would deeply appreciate something more innovative.

Chris Rock used to be one of the best stand-up comedians in the United States. At one point, he decided to make films with jokes that nobody is offended by and nobody wants to see.

Brands try to reach the masses by extending product lines, make their offerings accessible to everyone or create inferior substitutes. They basically look for a shortcut. Some of them trade their long-term reputation in exchange for short/mid-term profits. As a public company, that’s hard to resist. When you’re not careful, you might lose your reputation and long-term profits at the same time.

Should Apple make a $100 iPad?

Should Porsche come out with a $15,000 car?

Sometimes you have to pray at the altar of the lowest common denominator: Many CPG brands and fast food restaurants follow that path. For others, that prayer might be a trap: While they focused on the short-term profit, others resisted the temptation and developed a voice that people will seek out. And are willing to pay a pretty dime for.

fastfoods-ads-vs-reality-bigmacWe’ve all seen these images before. Advertising is about making things look desirable. However, there comes a point where reality and desire diverge, and the ad industry is really bad in recognizing that point.

That’s when we enter the world of “Butt Pad” advertising.

Apparently, there are people out there who want a shapely behind. The enhancement industry is extremely happy to offer people devices that lift, pad and shape the derriere. Here’s the problem: Once you leave the club/bar/part, the pad has to be removed. Suddenly, reality sets in and you’re stuck with what nature has blessed you with.

The majority of ads are guilty of this behavior.

They get you excited. They get you going. They make you want to take the next step by stimulating your imagination. At one point, they have to reveal the product: It’s perfectly acceptable. It’s fine.

But it’s nowhere near the hype represented in the full glory of the heavily padded presentation.

Shouldn’t we be happy with what we actually have?

Advertising is not in the business to lie to sell a product.

Good advertising communicates the truth of a product in the best possible light. It’s like going on a date: As an introvert, I wouldn’t try to be an extrovert. However, as a mediocre dresser, I would put my best food forward. Padded ads express shame in the core offering. They might give you short-term advantages, look good in the limelight, but in the end brand are eroding long-term customer faith in brand, favoring a cheap sale.

My question is, when will we start being happy with what we actually have? Advertising shouldn’t need to lie to sell a product. The best ads represent the truth of a product in the best possible light. But padded ads only express shame in the core offering. They may look good in a skirt and top, but you are eroding long term customer faith in you, in favor of a cheap sale.

What to do?

If you’re not comfortable in your skin, you have bigger problems than the shape of your derriere. If you’re not proud of your product, you have bigger problems than just your advertising strategy.

Explore and determine what you love about yourself and build a wardrobe of communication points around that. Be proud of who you are. Hold your head high. Be proud. Most importantly, deliver on your strengths rather than hiding your perceived weakness behind a fake reality show you can never live up to.


I was listening to the 443rd episode of This American Life: Amusement Park and was reminded how much digital marketers can learn from state fairs and amusement parks.

The first story painted a lively image of Cole Lindbergh, a 25-year-old who has worked at the Worlds of Fun park in Kansas City for nine years. Cole runs the games department at Worlds of Fun, a division of 32 games. The kinds of games you see at any carnival or state fair, where you get three balls or a handful of darts. Just like most products we try to market, nobody seeks out the games in an amusement park. You want the rides, the food – the games are an afterthought.

So, how is Cole Lindbergh getting people to play games?

Have fun and share the fun with others

As Ira Glass says in the piece: “Have fun. If you have fun, that’s what’s going to sell the game.”

Too much of what we do in marketing doesn’t communicate fun. It’s too serious, too data-driven, not creative enough. Having fun spreads. People feel the passion and enjoyment advertisers had when they created their communication.

How to do viral right

Remember the last time you went to the fair and you saw all these people walking around with giant plush toys? They often cost less than the actual game and amusement parks use them as walking advertisements for all the games. The winners function as unpaid marketing vehicles. Think twice before paying for endorsements or blogger outreach. Find other ways to spread the word, make it part of your product and more of an organic process.


Amusement parks are pretty terrible places to work. You have to stand all day, the elements can be exhausting and the work itself is not much fun. Cole Lindbergh answered that challenge by creating contests, pitting each game team against each other. The high school employees work for hours without a break, create their own costumes and battle it out to be the big winner.

As customers, we have to fill out so many forms and finish really boring tasks, how can brands make this more enjoyable? Let’s not just focus on the outcome of our initiatives (likes, followers, conversions, etc.), let’s make the path to the outcome more fun.

Nobody cares about you.

“Ira Glass:¬†Late morning, when I checked back at Games III, the pyramids of plush toys looked pretty much exactly as big as they had earlier that morning. Things were slow. And to goose the business, one of the supervisors, Sarah, was standing on the roof of this little hut.

Sarah: 88 more guesses until I’m coming off the roof.

Woman 3: She’s staying on the roof until she gets 100 guesses.

Sarah: I’m here until I get 88 more guesses, and then I’m going to allow myself to take a bathroom break. So any of you guys walking by, if you guys want to come play my game, help me out. Get me off this roof. It’s only $5 to play. I can guess your age, weight, or birthday month.

Ira Glass: This is a technique that I recognize from a thousand Public Radio pledge drives, and it was working about as slowly for her as it works for us. Strangers just don’t care if some girl on the roof gets to take a bathroom break.”

People don’t care about your brand. People only care about themselves and how YOU can help them getting things done better, quicker, nicer, etc.

Be yourself.

Just watch this video.

Low tech. Low budget. Completely uncool.

And that’s why they work so well. Because you can feel the heart and passion behind them. As Ira Glass remarks: “And their total commitment to what they’re doing actually flips the dorkiness and makes it kind of cool.”

We tend to turn marketing into a science filled with buzzwords and complex models. Sometimes you just have to walk around a amusement park and re-discover the basics.

You can listen to the full episode here.

A short movie produced by the Dutch producers Joep van Osch and Casper Eskes asks good questions: What the hell are we actually doing on Facebook? Does it make any sense? Should we “friend” people we barely know? Are we creating a virtual character just to please your Facebook friends?

Rethink your personal Facebook Strategy

A Facebook strategy, really? I thought it’s about sharing ¬†whatever you want to with your friends?

No, it’s not.

You’re developing a virtual brand. Don’t think you can be real on social networks. You shouldn’t be. You don’t want to air your last fight with your spouse on Facebook. Have a serious discussion about your relationship on Twitter.

You gotta be careful.

Never say anything about your clients. Ever.

Never say anything real about your relationship. Ever.

Never be real.

Be Facebook real.

Showcase your strength. Showcase what you want to stand for. So many people talk about authenticity. It’s all garbage. You don’t want to be real on Facebook. You want to be Facebook real.

Don’t share everything. Especially the negative parts.

Share enough. Especially the negative parts.

Don’t convey the Unicorn world.

You’re better than that. You’re real. Just be real in the limits Social Networks put you in. Don’t go all out.

The semi-reality of Facebook

Nobody is a real person on Facebook.

You push your all-time-best pictures in albums. Or on Instagram.

You showcase your best thinking, your best information you gather.

It’s not enough.

You have to refine your Facebook strategy even more.

Don’t define authenticity as a picture from a party.

Define it as new way of thinking, ideas you want to share with people.

Make your own Internet better than just a reunion-stirring-memories-hurting platform.

Make it a platform to define yourself. You can change any day and become some other person. (At least, we in Los Angeles can.)

Why not change your presence on social platforms. Try to be the person you want to be.

More helpful.

More value-adding.

Just a better person.

You don’t become a lesser person because of this.

You become a better person.

Because you are aware.

Because you are.

That’s enough.

What about brands?

The same applies to brands.

Authenticity and transparency doesn’t mean you have to share everything with everybody. People don’t really care about all the customer complaints you field each and every day. They don’t want to hear about the tiny details of your production process.

They want their problems solved.

And they want to find out if your brand matches up with their Facebook persona.

How does your brand fit into their Facebook being? How does it make them look better?

No wonder so many people click on or “like” charity/CSR initiatives. It makes them look better. (“I care. I’m not one of these mindless consumers. I’m a responsible customer.”)

Highlight things and initiatives that make the customer look better. That’s what Social Media marketing is all about.

Make the customer look better.