Are you faking it?

Authenticity is a word you’ve probably heard in marketing discussions.

It’s mostly bullshit.

Think of it this way: would you stand around sipping cocktails with your friends and introduce a new guy to the group like this? Hey guys, this is Bob. I know him from the health club. He’s a great guy – really authentic

Like all things in marketing, it does no good to say you are X, Y and Z. You have to show it. You have to live it. It has to be part of who you are as a brand.

This is one aspect of brand and marketing where I think smaller companies in many ways have an advantage over larger ones.

A couple of examples:

Rivet and Sway

Rivet and Sway is an eyewear company based in Seattle that sells stylish frames for women. This is a company that’s taken their niche and their value add to heart.

They’ve taken an experience – once dominated by a “doctor’s office” vibe with a little frame shop thrown in – and built a brand on the lifestyle associated with their product and customer. And they’ve successfully reinvented an offline experience for online consumers.

To Rivet and Sway and its customers, glasses are an accessory, a fashion statement. Women with poor eyesight should not be held hostage to the tastes and opinions of people they barely know who happen to be working the floor of the optometrist’s office when they go to pick out some frames.

You get the sense that every person who works for this company is also the customer.

This is authenticity in marketing. It comes through in their copy, their voice. It comes through in their content. And it comes through in the experience they offer, which enables customers to try three different frames at home, take pics of themselves in each and get opinions from Rivet and Sway stylists, friends and family.

They’ve also done something clever with their content that goes beyond throwing articles in a blog. They feature photos of customers out in the world wearing their frames in a series called “Eye Spotted”. They use professional photography and give the details of the frames being worn so you can buy them or try them on.


Simple, yet so effective. And again, you get the sense of authenticity, that the people who work at this company understand the customer.


Oaklandish is a local clothing store in Oakland, Calif., where I live. They’ve done a fantastic job establishing themselves as both members and leaders of the local community, not just a store trying to sell stuff.

Dive into Oaklandish’s Instagram feed, for instance, and you rarely see a stitch of their clothing. Instead, you see images of Oakland – iconic and everyday. You see images of the people of Oakland, other local companies or promos for local events.


This is a local brand that’s squarely planted in its community – something any small real estate brokerage could take a cue from. Putting aside the young, urban slant for a second, you can easily see how smart their marketing is and how any business that’s trying to root its value in being local should stop and take a look.

The authenticity here extends to the company’s actions. They support local artists and events, youth groups, small business groups and causes. They are versed in Oakland lingo, history, challenges, triumphs and vibe. In my eyes, Oaklandish is Oakland in many ways.

They’ve not only captured the city’s unique diversity, rich urban culture, and iconic imagery in their product, but they walk the walk. If you’re searching for authenticity, it’s really that simple. Do what you say you do. Be the image you portray.

City Home Collective

City Home Collective is more than a real estate company. Clearly, they are about design and “place” and love to market their city and the people who make it what it is.

Based in Salt Lake City, City Home uses content marketing to help uncover culture, local businesses, food, design and people. It’s clear to me the lifestyle they’ll help me uncover for myself by doing business with them.

This brand doesn’t need to tell me they’re authentic. I see it and feel it. I know they care about me and the community right from the home page, where I see spotlights on local businesses, the people who run them, the new or best food in town.


It’s crazy that more brokerages don’t do this. Featuring your customers, peers and fellow businesses helps to build a sense of community and gives your product or service an authenticity you can’t get from brochures, inspirational Facebook memes or stock photos.

If you’re looking to build authenticity – which in turn can build trust and love for your brand – think about people. Most of us don’t leave our homes in the morning with a strong desire to engage with brands. We much prefer to interact with people.

Who are the people who represent your brand? Who are the customers you want to reach? Aligning these two is where you start to build something real.