Festival of Marketing 2019 key takeaways: get real – the value of authenticity

14 October 2019

“Authenticism is the way we can make consumers feel the way we want them to feel,” Cristina De Balanzo, told delegates at the Festival of Marketing last week.

Balanzo is an expert in neuroscience at Walnut Unlimited – a ‘human understanding agency’ that works with brands and organisations to help them fathom what, exactly, makes people tick, engages them on an emotional level and ultimately, gets them to buy more.

“Brains can detect if something/someone is not being genuine,” she said, using the example of an advert featuring a woman talking and interacting with a child. It ranked badly with its audience, and when scientists put it under microscopic scrutiny, they discovered the woman’s facial expressions actually described fear, anger and disgust rather than love of, or engagement with, the child. “It was later discovered that the model in question actually hated children!” revealed Balanzo.

That was our first morning at the Festival and it set the tone for the rest of the event: Authenticity cropped up at almost every session in some shape or form: from the necessity of authentic brand values, to the absolute must for authentic consumer insights.

Take the discussion The Future of Gender: What masculinity means today and how you can drive significant change. The panel was chaired by author and editor of The Book of Man Martin Robinson and included: Nikki Vadera, marketing director UK & IRE for Henkel; professor of health studies and research director in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Westminster Damien Ridge; editor of Holland & Barrett’s Healthy For Men magazine Tom Rowley, and director of communications at the ASA Craig Jones. They explored how brands relate to, and communicate with, men. Once again, it all came back to authenticity. From portraying men in an authentic way – no stereotypes of hapless dads…to creating authentic campaigns that fit with brands ethos and values.

Nikki Vadera, marketing director UK & IRE for global player Henkel with brands ranging from Dylon to Colour Catcher and Bloo in home cleaning and laundry, to Schwarzkopf in beauty, stressed that Henkel’s approach was not to disingenuously try to appeal to any one audience, but be “true to who a brand audience is” adding “consumers will buy into a brand that believes what they believe”. This, she said, meant there was no one size fits all marketing because diverse Henkel audiences across the globe had different values and mindsets. “Unless something feels authentic to a brand, it will not feel authentic to the consumer,” she said.

And the panel used the example of Gillette’s “The Best a Man Can Be” campaign from the start of this year that attempted to challenge the idea of toxic masculinity, encouraging men to step in to stop bullying, sexual harassment or violence. The backlash from millions of men, indignant at what they felt was insulting, was immediate. Certainly, it was a volte-face from a brand that had previously championed masculinity. The panel agreed Gillette simply hadn’t come from “a place of integrity”. They were equally dismissive of (unnamed) brands that had jumped on the Gay Pride bandwagon, with no thought as to how they might engage with LGBTQ+ customers, or indeed employees, at any other time of the year.

If you’d like Brandality to take a look at how you can ensure authenticity sits at the centre of your brand, drop us a line here.