The Price of Authenticity

Parachute Media believes in authenticity. Leaders create the culture and lead branding, marketing efforts, and community management by how they internally value authenticity. We’re excited to share a blog post written by friends of ours, Justin Foster and Emily Soccorsy. They believe in the power of authenticity as well and sometimes, sometimes it just might cost you a few customers. See if you agree.

The Price of Authenticity

By Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster

We’re not going to sugar coat the truth. For all its catchphrase luster and luminosity and its 2016 buzzword sexiness, sometimes authenticity sucks. It comes with a price. But is there overwhelming value? Yes.

The Price of Authenticity

Sometimes authenticity loses you customers. But will it gain you raving fans? Yes.

[ctt template=”3″ link=”cjBE1″ via=”no” ]Stories about real people being humans. This means “you never have to manufacture interesting.” #parachutemedia[/ctt]

Sometimes authenticity causes the khaki-wearers in your company to frown and to write you strongly worded emails about how you might offend someone. But will it woo your followers into your brand and community? Yes.

And authenticity always attracts trolls and haters.

So don’t — DO NOT — pass it off as a happy-go-lucky solution for all your branding problems.

There is a pay-off if you dive into expressing and marketing the not-always-perfect, sometimes quirky or unusual and not-always-safe nature of your brand. You being you can’t be copied or stolen. No one can be you better than you. Which means that authenticity might just be the ultimate intellectual property.

And, maybe those khaki-wearers need to be shaken up. Maybe those customers are not really your best customers or maybe those offended by your authenticity you really didn’t want around you anyway.

So instead of thinking about the price of authenticity, what is the VALUE of authenticity? Here are five things to consider:

Marketing is as much about repulsion as it is about attraction.

The value of authenticity is that the people around your brand truly want to be there. They are not being paid off with some marketing gimmick or discount. They aren’t there because you featured talking animals in your TV ad. They are there because you connected to their hearts. They take this message, wired into their hearts, and share it. They share with their best friends, with their family, with their network, and your brand grows — organically and based on the truth of what you believe.

Authenticity makes content marketing strategy 10x easier.

Heck – it makes it 100x easier, because you always have an endless flow of stories to share. Stories of success and failure, happiness and sorrow, winning and losing. You know: stories about real people being humans. This means “you never have to manufacture interesting.” This means you never have to get in a room and ponder “Now what will we talk about?” You get to leverage your culture by empowering your employees to use social media. You tap into the natural energy of love that your customers have for your brand. All of which are priceless brand equity.

Being authentic means your message is what your heart wants to say to the world, not what you think people want to hear.

This always requires tremendous bravery and conviction because most leaders have been trained to think that traditional marketing is either a) offering up an intellectual message or b) focus-grouping an acceptable message. Neither of which work in the 21st century. And is there a greater time suck for marketing directors than another round of “message massaging?” By speaking from the heart, you are inviting people to believe what you believe, to join your movement. This means marketing is about influence, not about spend.

You get to be the underdog. When we are authentic, in life, in work, as brands, we expose ourselves.

When we fail, we do so publicly. People are surprised. Then, when we admit our failure, confess we are, indeed, human, and ask for forgiveness, we become braver, more real and more trustworthy. We have demonstrated truth and honesty. And when you stumble as all brands and leaders do, you will learn something about how deep your roots go, where to get better, where the gaps are and what you and your team are made of. That makes you the underdog, the brand next door, the one your audience will relatably root for — and buy from.

Authenticity means you don’t need backup plans, spin control, managing the message or media training for your boring executives.

You just speak truth. Not recklessly or stupidly, of course. This saves you time, money and keeps your productivity-to-meeting ratio in check. We say, digital marketing is not rocket science. It’s simply clarity of message, delivered consistently, over time. When you are communicating that way from an authentic place irrespective of spin or pig lipstick, it works every time.

Again: is this easy? No.

Do not believe anyone who tells you it is.

It requires courage and insight, sound judgement and the discipline to stay connected to the root of your brand. The first source of doubt will be in your own head. The part of you that likes to be liked. Tell that voice to shut up and do it anyway. You need a branding and marketing strategy regardless. So why not do it from a place that you have the most control over? In the end, if you stick to your guns about becoming an authentic brand, your decision will be reinforced by a thousand voices of engaged employees, happy customers and a fawning media.


Emily Soccorsy (@emilyatlarge) and Justin Foster (@fosterthinking) are the co-founders of root + river. Based on the mutual belief that branding is no longer about creating perception but the becoming of who an organization or leader truly is, Justin and Emily are returning leaders to timeless ideas on how brands are born, evolve and grow.