There, we said it. The dreaded A word.
Does it send shivers down your spine? We don’t blame you if it does. One of the travesties of the millennial era is that “authenticity” was co-opted by (ironically) inauthentic marketeers that reduced its meaning to an aesthetic. A mere synonym for cool.
But to us, authenticity is the spirit of truth that every brand needs to become meaningful to its customers. This is what we mean by the third tenet in the Truss Method—Campaign with Heart.
Campaigning with heart is about putting your brand to work authentically. Holding on to the values that connect you to your customer no matter what you do. It’s showing up in a manner that’s consistent with what you stand for, whether that’s in an ad campaign, sales promotion, or live event. It’s about being focused on your customer’s story instead of being distracted by what the competition is doing.
Let’s take a look at three authentic brands that perfectly model the Campaign with Heart ethos.
40 years is a long time to play the long game, but that’s how long it took Subaru to become profitable in America. Now it enjoys a peerless reputation built around value, safety, and trustworthiness. Demand for its products outpace supply and it’s the envy of its industry.
How did it achieve this? 15 years ago it decided to build its brand around a somewhat peculiar promise: love. It found that love of family, community, adventure and, of course, Subarus, were the common threads that connected its owners, so it decided to show up as the car manufacturer with a lot of heart.
Two of the most striking examples are its Love Promise, a brand manifesto of sorts, and its annual Share the Love Event, which has raised more than $145 million for national and hometown charities that car buyers help to choose.
In the beleaguered publishing industry, the 50+ year old food magazine Bon Appetit is experiencing a new lease on life through a renewed commitment to championing the home cook. This editorial mission is executed through a genius content strategy that includes the print publication, BonAppetit.com, two digital verticals (Healthyish and Basically), a podcast, and a masterclass of a YouTube channel, which is single-handedly upending food TV as we know it.
Why is it working? The brand has built its content around a charismatic cast of editors, recipe testers, and contributors, that are just like you and me—regular people that over whip the cream and burn the garlic every once in a while (even if they are highly skilled chefs). Their gaffes, foibles, and banter are never edited out. This kind of relatability gives you the sense that, with a little practice, you could be cooking right alongside them.
The lesson: smart, funny, authentic content resonates no matter the platform, medium, or production value.
Life is better when it’s lived outside. This is the basic premise of REI’s brand essence and authentically living out this belief has led to remarkable success for the 81-year-old co-op. It’s Black Friday campaign, #OptOutside, is a great example.
Every year since 2015, REI has closed its stores on retail’s biggest day of the year. It gives employees a paid day off to enjoy nature and their favorite outdoor pursuits, making a huge statement by putting their brand purpose over profit. Consequently, REI has turned into a beacon, symbolizing the rejection of out-of-control consumerism for so many. Over the years more than 700 organizations, including other retailers, have joined the #OptOutside campaign. Many national and state parks participate by offering the public free entry on Black Friday. The success of the campaign has also led to strategic partnerships with institutions such as the University of Washington, in which REI has invested more than $1 million in studying the health effects of spending time outdoors.