Authentically

It was an authentic question.

I shared coffee last week with a former boss who now is a VP at Google. He was surprised to learn that I founded a marketing strategy consultancy and had been successful at it ever since leaving his employ. He was curious how I promoted the business and was shocked to learn that approximately half of Silicon Strategies Marketing’s new clients come from the web.

It all hinges on authenticity.

Since the earliest days of snake oil, buyers have been wary of product claims. Anyone who has ever bought a used car is even more sensitive. Inexperienced marketers make unsubstatiated claims, and by doing so trash their corporate brands. The entire product world — both B2C and B2B — at times seem to lack any authenticity. People, pre-programmed as they now are, distance themselves from offerings that appear inauthentic.

Which oddly enough explains iPods and Clint Eastwood.

When iPods were introduced, Apple’s marketing wizards made us believe that the gizmos delivered an authentic joyous experience. They used happy, dancing silhouettes as a way of demonstrating the authentic pleasure most people get from listening to music (especially Apple’s target demographic, young people, as represented by the slim and full-head-of-hair silhouette models). Aside from the other marketing objectives, this made the iPod value proposition seem authentic based on the actions of those shady young people with white wires inserted into their ears.

This last weekend Clint Eastwood pimped government bailed-out Chrysler, which lost a lot of authenticity when a billion or so of your tax investment in them was written-off. They wrangled Clint Eastwood into appearing in an All American Superbowl advertisement to resurrect authenticity in the now Italian-owned automaker. Say what you may about the politics or foreign ownership of an American auto icon, but Eastwood reeks of authenticity, and exploiting Clint caused some of his authenticity to rub off on a car company that has twice been rescued by Washington.

B2B authenticity is more difficult than that for consumer products. This is in part due to the impersonal nature of business products, but also because consumer product buyers lack checks and balances outside of their spouses, and thus can be influenced by inflamed impulses (see Go Daddy’s Super Bowl ads for inflamed impulses). These restrictions cause B2B marketers to focus too much on substantiating claims as opposed to putting human believability into the mix. The importance of authenticity on the emotional side is so important that the lack of such in B2B, and especially technology marketing, is a sin.

Imagine for a moment two nearly identical technology products for business. Both have similar value propositions, features, benefits and price points. But one product’s web site has brief video testimonials from your industry peers in which positive emotions (relief, joy, ambition) reflect the product. The authenticity provided by these endorsements will bias you toward that solution because your claims become more believable. The other product may be equal in all practical respects, but their claims lack authenticity.

Long ago, when Silicon Strategies Marketing was helping SuSE Linux put heat on Red Hat, we focused on articulating the strategic goals of CxOs, and lightly tying that back to Linux. By communicating to CxOs their own thinking about evolving data centers, we made SuSE look authentic through association. The authenticity of caring about what CxOs thought was enough to assure SuSE was on CxO Linux evaluation short lists.

The VP at Google asked how the Silicon Strategies Marketing web site could be responsible for half our new clients. It is in the authenticity. Be it this blog, which seeks to educate and not sell, or client testimonials where real people have lent their face, name and quotes, the web site assures executives that our services deliver authentic value.

And we didn’t have to blow a ton of money on hiring Clint Eastwood.


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