Each month in the Green Room we return backstage to pose a question to our Rockstar CMOs. Ian Truscott catches up with six of them and asks how we as marketers can keep it real, cut through the smoke hanging around the stage of hype and BS, and appeal to the cynical, empowered consumer that craves authenticity.

Let’s be honest, we represent an industry and vocation that struggles for credibility at the best of times. Today’s savvy consumers can see through the hype and are empowered to dig a little deeper into brand claims and make informed decisions based on how authentic they perceive a brand to be, and how this aligns with their own needs, aspirations and world view.

In this age of the empowered, cynical consumer, the marketing department has to move from sleight of hand showman, to an enabling partner in the consumer’s search for a solution to their problem or satisfaction of their need.

How do you do this? How do you get heard in all the noise with an authentic connection with this audience? In this month’s Green Room, we turned to our panel of marketing leaders for advice and we asked them:

What’s your advice for keeping it real – to create authentic marketing – and not get caught up in all the BS and hype?

Amber Osborne

“Do what works best for your company, not every business is at the same point in their lifespan. Marketing outside your market or above your budget because someone tells you it is the trendy thing to do can be deadly for a business. I mean, look at Fyre Festival.”

Amber Osborne is CMO at Doghead Simulations – the company behind rumii, a social-virtual reality space that enables collaboration in VR. Amber suggested mandatory karaoke when we went backstage with her.

Jenni Young

“Every marketing campaign is a like a journey. As a marketer, you have to understand your brand, and then the ultimate action and emotional connection you want your audience (or audiences) to have. If you understand the start and end point, you can choose your journey. That’s what keeps things authentic – asking, ‘Will my audience connect?’ ‘Will they make the desired decision?’ If this doesn’t happen, I’d suggest it wasn’t authentic and you need to start again. Also, steer clear of anyone who uses the word ‘game-changer’.”

(Amen to that Jenni!)

Jenni Young is Managing Director at Partnership for Growth & Innovation (LBHF & Imperial College London) and the CMO of Tappit, a cashless payment platform for event organizers. Go backstage with her here.

Robert Rose

“My advice is that trust starts with the storyteller. So, you have to begin there.

See, there’s a lot of talk about the concept of authenticity in marketing. But most discussions about authenticity would be better off using other words, like ‘honesty’, ‘trustworthiness’, or ‘transparency’ to communicate the point. After all, the primary definition of ‘authentic’ is simply “of undisputed origin; genuine” – as in an authentic Andy Warhol painting. Other definitions include “accurate or reliable” or “based on facts” – as in an authentic depiction of that historic event. So, yeah, you can be an authentic asshole (certain politicians come to mind). You can be an authentic liar (certain other politicians come to mind).

Yes, your brand can be authentic, and still be distrusted.

So start with an understanding of what marketing stories your brand, the storyteller, has a requisite amount of ‘trust equity’ to tell. There’s a wonderful quote by the author John Maxwell. He says, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” The same can be said for the stories we tell. If your audience doesn’t believe in the storyteller, the story – no matter how earnest and authentic – won’t matter. “

As the Chief Strategy Advisor for the Content Marketing Institute, Robert innovates creative and technical content marketing strategies for his clients. An early internet pioneer, Robert has more than 15 years of experience, and a track record of helping brands and businesses develop successful web and content marketing strategies.

Learn more about Robert, as we went backstage with him in our first issue.

Wendy Bryant-Beswick

“Being authentic and keeping it real means as a marketer you need to be on the streets. What I mean by that is you have to listen to your customers and your employees. Your employees will tell you what’s working and what’s not – they may also be your biggest fans if cultivated and encouraged to provide ideas and solutions. It’s not that different with your customers, they too want to be heard and want convenience.

For me, listening to our contact center team and speaking with our retail staff helps me understand what’s going on and how we can be ourselves.”

Wendy Bryant-Beswick is an award-winning marketer with 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry. She is currently VP of Marketing at Service Credit Union. Go backstage with Wendy.

Ted Rubin

Ted generously shared with us a great deal on this topic (which you can read here) Here’s an excerpt:

“I’m constantly seeking out the opinions of others, and I’m very big on treating the people I encounter with respect and humanity. But none of that stops me from speaking my mind when it’s time to produce content.

The tough thing about trying to please everyone all the time with your content is that it makes it very difficult to speak your mind. You have your own ideas, opinions, and perspectives on what is happening around you. Your experience is valuable, and it should be a major factor in your voice when you’re creating content.”

Read all of Ted’s Six Steps to Keeping it Real

Ted Rubin is a leading social marketing strategist, keynote speaker, Photofy CMO/advisor, MC/host for Brand Innovators Summits, speaker, author and provocateur. Ted is our resident rock star and tells it straight in his regular column.

Christine Bailey

“Three pieces of advice:

  • Speak to your customers!  They are the best judges of whether your marketing is landing with the audience it is intended for.  Always use customer insights to guide your thinking.
  • Challenge yourself to stop using “marketing speak “ and talk in real language that you would be comfortable using in a face to face conversation
  • Customers trust employees’ messages about their company more than they trust marketing messages.  Sorry!  It’s a fact.  Do everything you can to help your employees to amplify your brand, especially on social, whether that’s through your company intranet, social media training or social advocacy platforms.”

Christine Bailey is CMO of Valitor, an international payment solutions company headquartered in Iceland. Forging a career in the tech sector, she’s led European marketing for Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, and writes frequently for Forbes Woman. Learn more about Christine in backstage Q&A here.


There’s very little I can add to this; we as marketers need to get away from our screens and data, and talk to people. Talk to our colleagues to understand the authentic voice and culture of our organizations, and talk to customers about their needs, why they make the buying decisions they do and what influenced them.

Sadly, according to research by the Content Marketing Institute this isn’t happening:

“….Relatively few B2B content marketers research their audience by talking to their customers. Only 42% say they have conversations with customers as part of their audience research.”

Content Marketing Institute

There’s an easy fix!

Thanks to Amber, Jenni, Robert, Ted, Wendy and Christine for stepping into the Green Room and sharing this fantastic advice.

Agree? What would your advice be? Drop us a comment, tweet us, and if you feel really strongly about it, write for us.

Ready to rock?

Fancy a chat about this? Or maybe we can help with our advisory services or get in touch!


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