By Stanley Meytin, CEO of True Film Production

As the digital media space becomes more crowded and fragmented than ever before, it becomes that much more important to stand out from the noise. With that said, branded content can easily get lost in the sea of marketing messages, unless it is worthy of attention. So, how do you get your message to be worthy of attention and, more importantly, worthy of trust? The answer is simple: authenticity.

Authenticity is one of those “grey-area zones” where the borders are not clearly defined. It’s not immediately clear what being authentic really means, but the best way to think about it is to equate a brand with a person. Think about a time when you met someone who was “real” and someone who was evidently “fake.” Take a mental note of how a fake person would speak and act, versus someone who is genuine. Then ask yourself: Who do I prefer? It comes as no surprise that real wins, every single time.

In a similar fashion, authenticity in brand storytelling is how genuine and honest a brand is in its messaging, and that approach captures the minds and hearts of viewers almost always.

The most influential campaigns in history have relied on a very rudimentary principle: Be genuine, then establish trust, then build loyalty with customers. This formula is fairly simple, but how does one create such a lasting bond built on authenticity?

Figure out what makes you authentic in the first place.

All leading brands start with a clear vision and a core idea of why they exist. From there, they create a brand narrative that captures the essence of who they are and what their mission is. Once the substance is clear, brands must find their true voice and messaging format.

For example, if your company’s mission is to bring smiles to children’s faces, then your messaging ought to be much more playful and less formal than a company whose mission is to serve researchers with their lab operations. Ultimately, make sure that your story has personality because that is what sticks with your audience.

Be consistent and stay true to your authentic self.

Once you have nailed down what your message is and how you want to say it, make sure that everything your brand projects is aligned with that authentic voice. This means that all the activities of your company and all the partners/stakeholders you engage with should meet eye to eye with your values. Consumers want to see consistency in your messaging, and if you are sending conflicting messages, they will quickly become disengaged.

For example, a grocery store that prides itself on sourcing only organic and sustainable foods should be using recycled paper bags for its customers instead of plastic, which is known to hurt the environment, because that is more aligned with the store’s voice.

One real-world example is the decision from CVS to stop selling cigarettes in September 2014. As a pharmacy whose mission was to promote health and wellbeing, the company saw that it was out of character to be selling tobacco. The decision cost CVS some lost revenue, but CVS customers became more loyal than ever to the brand. In fact, some customers were impacted by the strong message that CVS portrayed and stopped smoking altogether. According to a study conducted by the CVS Health Research Institute, in the span of eight months after CVS took cigarettes off its shelves, cigarette sales decreased by 95 million packs in 13 states. This is a testament to the kind of impact a company can have on consumer behavior.

Empower your audience to tell your story.

Coming up with a story is useless if it doesn't connect with your target audience. The point of telling your story is having it resonate with an audience that becomes raving fans of your cause and champions it to the end. With that said, it’s very important to make customers take part in your story. Once they are engaged, they become brand ambassadors unintentionally.

Because one of the most effective marketing tools is plain old word of mouth, make sure that the customer experience is pleasant and naturally shareable. Being real and authentic will resonate with your audience and will make your brand truly memorable.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to be authentic because, at its core, it’s about your efforts to be organic rather than fake. So, discover your core message, stick to it and find the audience who appreciates your message.

Stanley Meytin is the CEO of True Film Production, as well as a visual storyteller, entrepreneur, and diehard Jets fan.

Published on: Dec 26, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.