You've probably heard the word 'authentic' thrown around a lot in brand marketing, it's rapidly become a buzzword with no textbook definition for what it means. Often increasing a brand's authenticity is associated with more candid style communications and building consumer trust through transparency and purpose.
Authentic marketing has risen in popularity as consumers tire of being bombarded with ads and constant calls to action. Modern brands have found a clever way to cut through the clutter by sharing their brand narrative in a native format that skips the sales pitch altogether.
Consumers are surrounded by multiple purchasing decisions so brands need to be able to define why they are unique through sharing their values, purpose and story. Content from marketers must emphasise their 'why'—and be able to back it up—because modern consumers can see right through inauthentic attempts to stay relevant.
Appearing more candid and sharing native or informal style content, such as glimpses behind the scenes, can help give consumers an insider's view and an opportunity for brands to appear more genuine.
Content that is described as authentic is most often not created by the brands themselves, but rather by their fans, customers and content creators. Removing the commercial production layers on photo and video content has boosted the perceived 'realness' of brands. The added bonus of this less stylised content is that it gives audiences an unfiltered view of products, leveling expectations and increasing their confidence to purchase.
Authentic content enables brands to build trust with their audience by communicating with them just like their friends would in seamless social interactions. To be perceived as authentic, branded content must be tailored to the lifestyles of individual audiences and channels of distribution.
Images that are not perceived as authentic are often lacking in personalisation, such as generic stock images that come from the same websites that everyone else has access to. Without context and intent behind them, generic images do not add meaning to your brand story or relevance to your audience.
Overly stylised or commercial-looking images are also on the opposing spectrum of relatability. This includes high-production shoots featuring posed models that are unattainably beautiful, or content presenting product that is placed within unrealistic situations. Of course there is a use-case for this type of content but it is designed to be aspirational not authentic!
While stock images are easily accessible, and often free to use, they can have adverse effects on your brand. A high-performing marketing strategy should be able to eliminate FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) and stock photos counter that tactic.
Other than that, you want your brand to be recognisable to your audience but with stock there's nothing to stop your competitors from using the same images as you and hijack any brand building you've been doing. Shutterstock alone now has 1.9 million users, would you want to share the images you're using with that many other marketers?
Authentic content often looks like it was, or is, created by customers and fans of the brand which is perceived as a more trustworthy source of information. Users are more likely to pay attention to content that looks like it is from a real person as opposed to an ad which often gets dismissed.
Over 70% of consumers say they expect brands to deliver some kind of personalised experience. Personalising content also helps your customers feel like their experience with you was tailored specifically for them. Brands can stand out to their ideal consumers by presenting photos that speak directly to each segment of their market.
Just like people, search and social algorithms get bored of seeing the same content too. Social platforms like Instagram and TikTok will put fresh posts in front of users through their feeds or suggested content streams and Tweets containing images are 150% more likely to be retweeted.
Optimising images for Google increases your organic search potential and can also impact your page ranking. Google Images receive more than one billion searches every day, and image searches represent about 30% of all queries.
You can definitely use authentic content directly from your users, but creating your own builds a more consistent look and narrative for your brand.
Subconsciously consumers remember associations with a brand, even if they don't remember the name. A signature colour for example can increase brand recognition by up to 80%. This is why building consistent branding through your visual material is so important, we’ll show you exactly how to do this below.
With a little bit of planning, you can easily present your brand in a more relatable and genuine way. The best part is - authentic style imagery is easy to achieve and cheaper to produce than traditional commercial style content!
Adding lifestyle or in-situ visuals can make your product more appealing by illustrating how it works and what features it contains. This is a simple way to show prospective buyers how your brand can complement their lifestyle and have a human element that creates warmth for your brand. People love seeing real people interacting with a product, and brands like the Honest Company even use content from customers on their website banners or product pages.
Drive a deeper connection by using images that represents your target audience. Using familiar imagery in a natural setting helps relate audiences to your product or service. This can include local places and people within your market. By doing so, you encourage users to easily visualise themselves in the experiences you're promoting.
A study of Fortune 500 companies showed that brands which localised their content were twice as likely to increase profit and 125% more likely to grow earnings per share year-over-year.
Local faces with clear emotions can also help users relate to your message by allowing them to connect it to something or someone they are already familiar with. By doing this, you can deepen the relationship between your brand and the prospective customer.
Content with high production values can stick out like a sore thumb on some channels. Social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok have their own style of visuals and your typical commercial looking ad just won't perform here. If you want users to pay attention to your posts or promotions it is vital that your content looks like it belongs on the channel you are on - even if this means it's intentionally a bit rough around the edges!
Authentic content doesn't just perform on social media, it is demonstrated to drive sales across product listings, newsletters and performance advertising as well. A variety of images also helps prospective buyers feel more comfortable to follow through with their purchase, studies have shown that 22% of returns are attributed to the product looking different from the customers' expectations.
The key takeaways here are:
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