Out with the old and in with the new; out with advertising and in with content marketing....or is it on it’s way out the door as well? The public is showing signs of fatigue when it comes to content marketing and I think there is one main reason why: insincerity.
This old-fashioned manner has been swept away with the wind, an unfamiliar breeze of the past. Present day authenticity is more about being honest in order to benefit yourself, while sincerity is about being honest in order to be truthful in your interactions with others.
Yes, it’s valuable to define yourself in the inundated world of content: logo, images, quotes, associations. Content can be true to your brand, but should it supersede sincerity?
Is sincerity in marketing negotiable?
Content involves stories, and sincerity is negotiable within those tales. Seth Godin, author of All Marketers Are Liars, makes a clear point: if people like your content, they don’t care if it’s truthful.
Take the history of the cigarette industry. There were popular ads associating cigarettes (an undesirable product) with things like wine, horse racing, cricket or food (desirable activities). The implications were that cigarettes make you refined and sporty. People who smoked cigarettes liked what they were seeing, even though it’s untruthful.
Which has led us to today’s content marketing world where toothpaste manufacturers share parenting tips, and beverage companies are associated with extreme sports, and peanut butter commercials help you become a better father.
Where did the hero go?
In the cigarette ad, the cigarettes are the hero for making the consumer more sporty or refined. The toothpaste company wears the cape by having ingenious parenting advice. The beverage and peanut butter companies swoop in to save the day by implying that their customers are awesome because of their product. (Because of course you can’t be a world-class athlete without a sports drink, or a good father without peanut butter. Duh!) Even an anonymous email sender promises to make you a super star or the ultimate ninja or world’s best mom.
When did the content deliverer become the hero of the day? Perhaps the better question to ask is when did the customer stop being the hero?
There has been a shift in content toward a hopeful future instead of a realistic one. It allows the seller to step in as the hero who will help the buyer become a better version of themselves. “Donate money to help mistreated animals. Leave a legacy of care and compassion for those poor animals.” Essential: donate money to feel better about yourself.
Sometimes it’s fuzzy whether you should get involved to benefit yourself or the company. For example, an authentic charity can express how important it is to help mistreated animals; they will provide opportunities for you to give money so that they can help the animals, which will make you can feel like a hero for participating. A sincere charity will express how important it is to help mistreated animals; they are willing to share the responsibility with anyone interested to help because the goal is to genuinely help the mistreated animals.
Friendship and Feelings
Let’s pretend that there’s this boy who wants to be in a relationship with you. He attracts you with fun dates and delights you with thoughtful gifts. He’s consistently sending you messages and spending time with you. As the relationship progresses, he pressures you to align your emotions with his. And it seems like he is always asking you to do specific actions that you don’t necessarily enjoy. Eventually you’re not sure what you feel or what you like doing because he’s messing with your head and your heart.
Do you stay in the relationship with the boy or do you break up with him? My advice: ditch the dude!
Now let’s pretend that there’s a brand who wants to be in a relationship with you. The brand attracts you with fun posts and delights you with thoughtful emails. The brand is consistently sending you messages and spending time with you. As the brand relationship progresses, it pressures you to align your emotions with it’s emotions. And it seems like the brand is always asking you to do specific actions that you don’t necessarily enjoy. Eventually you’re not sure what you feel or what you like doing because the brand messing with your head and your heart.
Do you stay in the relationship with the brand or do you break it off? My advice: break up with the brand!
If a brand wants to be your (boy)friend, they will attract you and delight you. But let’s be honest: that’s crazy! A brand is an organization, not a person, so a friendship isn’t real or even sustainable at the surface level. You can offer emotions in the friendship, but the brand can’t reciprocate. Their charade stains their credibility, and credibility is essential in order to be sincere.
Aside from friendship (or lack thereof), businesses are run to earn a profit. They have goals, and one of them is to align their audience’s goals with their goals. They pull on your emotions and ask you to consider specific actions (like a bad boyfriend).
But if a brand is sincere, they will:
- have a genuine interest in your interests
- be receptive to your emotions and ideas.
- value you as you are.
- be transparent about who they are and what they offer.
- will focus on their values rather than their image.
- maintain a strong customer reputation.
How to insert sincerity into your marketing content
Want to be more sincere in your marketing? I’m so encouraged to hear that!
- Start by understand what your customer wants. They are individuals, not a company. Be careful not to make their goals become your goals, rather promote their existing goals and reveal that you have the same ones.
- Keep your brand and your customers brand separate. Don’t tell your audience who they are or what they feel. Rather, express who you are and what you feel and expose the freedom for your clients to do the same.
- Talk about your values and how you live out your beliefs. Share your mission, vision, or core values. Keep it simple by sharing the main points with your audience. They will find this helpful and trustworthy. Hint: don’t imply that you’re going to radically change the world. Be realistic and express that you’d like to improve your local community or region with hopes of expanding your reach.
- Don’t link your success or failures with your audience. Sincerity is about your company, it’s goals, and it’s actions (not your customers). Avoid, “you make this possible” or “because of you we can…” Stick with the truth, “this year our company…” or “we reached our goal of …”
- Don’t mix up the user’s journey with the hero’s journey. Your audience takes a real journey. A hero is imaginary and walks down a made-up path. Keep your content centered on actual customers and real-life instead of make-believe.
- Be practical and offer solutions. Offer useful information that will practically help your customers. Then tell them how you can offer a solution. Walk through the process with them and continually present helpful options to their struggles.
- Be a problem solver, not a producer of super stars or ninjas or world changer. Your products offer real solutions to real problems of real people. Your products don’t make them into an unrealistic hero.
Authenticity is about being honest in order to benefit yourself. Sincerity is about being honest in order to be truthful in your interactions with others. Which one describes your content marketing?
Are you ready for a MindShift toward sincere content marketing? We’d love to partner with you as you enter into a sincere relationship with your audience. Our team is ready to mentor you away from extreme authenticity and into the realm of sincerity. Reach out to us today with the form below to get started on the journey!