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Why Authenticity Delivers Real Marketing Results | With Teresa Heath-Wareing
Episode 327th September 2022 • The Strategic Marketing Show • Insights For Professionals
00:00:00 00:23:56

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Are you continually publishing bland corporate content with no distinct personality? Do you somehow feel that if you share values or spirit in your content then you might be turning your target audience off?

Not so according to our guest today - an international best-selling author, award-winning speaker and TEDx speaker.

She’s recognized alongside some of the world’s digital marketing thought leaders as an online business, marketing and mindset expert - a warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show - Teresa Heath-Wareing.

[You can find Teresa over at]

Topics discussed on this episode include:

  • What is authentic marketing?
  • Why does authentic marketing matter?
  • Is authentic marketing something that enterprise marketers should embrace?
  • How would an enterprise marketer go incorporating authentic marketing into what they do?
  • How do you measure the impact of authentic marketing?
  • You’ve chosen Dollar shave club as a great example of authentic marketing. Explain why.


David Bain:

Why authenticity delivers real marketing results - with Teresa Heath-Wareing.

The Strategic Marketing Show is brought to you by Insights For Professionals: providing access to the latest industry insights from trusted brands, all on a customized, tailored experience. Find out more over at

Hey, it’s David. Are you continually publishing bland corporate content with no distinct personality? Do you somehow feel that if you share values or spirit in your content, then that might turn your target audience off? Not according to my guest today: an international best-selling author, award-winning speaker, and TEDx speaker. She is recognized alongside some of the world's leading digital marketing thought leaders as an online business marketing and mindset expert. A warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show, Teresa Heath-Wareing.

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

Hey, David, thank you so much for having me. How are you doing?

David Bain:

I'm very good, thank you, and I hope life is treating you well as well. You can find Theresa over at So Teresa, what is authentic marketing?

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

I think when we say this, some people are gonna groan or be like, ‘Ugh, really?’ because it's a bit of a buzzword. However, in reality, it's probably one of the most important things to be thinking about in your marketing strategy.

Authentic marketing just means showing up as the real you. Obviously, I am my business, so showing up as the real me is easy, because it's just me. Often in corporate, people think, ‘Well, we can't do that’ but everyone has company values or a company ethos, or some kind of mission statement. It's just showing up authentically to those people, that way.

It's basically saying - and putting a stake in the ground and saying – ‘This is who we are. This is what we stand for and if you're with us, great. If you're not, that's okay, too.’ So many businesses are scared to do that, because they don't want to upset or put off their customers. For me, I think one of the most important things you can do is showing up as your true real self.

David Bain:

You mentioned corporate marketers there, and is that not a valid concern that they might put off their prospective customers by being ‘too authentic’?

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

Yeah, and I totally get it, I really, really do. Especially when you are a big company, and you maybe are a fairly faceless company, sometimes showing an authentic self and finding that authentic self can be really hard. That's where it comes down to who's heading up the company. What are the values? What is the ethos like? What are the employees like? What are their values?

I think it's a genuine concern that ‘What if we put this thing out, and say this thing, and people go ‘Hang on a minute’’? but also, I think it can attract so many people to your world. What it'll do is, the people who don't stand by some of the stuff you're saying and doing - the fact is, you're saying and doing them anyway, you're maybe just not communicating it. So, it's not like you're suddenly going to have an opinion about something that you wouldn't normally.

This would be one of your company values that you're having anyway, but now you're just explaining it, and putting it out there. For the people that are looking at it and going, ‘Do you know what? That's not for me’, that's fine, because you probably were never going to be for them. Because once they had got in and understood who you were, there'd be a disconnect - and they might not know why, but it just wouldn't quite sit right.

The people who then go, ‘Yes, you are my person. You, company, are exactly the type of people I like to deal with.’ They're not only going to become your customer - they're going to become your raving fans. You're going to have people who are completely entrenched in you and your business and the company, who will only ever buy from you - only ever want to be seen with you - because of what you stand for and because of who you are.

In recent years, there have been some huge world events that have meant that people have had to come out and speak and talk about different things. I just think that people are yearning for that. The days of the faceless company? We don't want that anymore, as consumers. We want to be seen and heard and valued, and we want to know that you are seeing us. Being authentic and showing up authentically is a really good way to show us that.

David Bain:

So, how do you do authentic from a corporate perspective? Because if you if you're a big marketing team - if you've got a couple of 100 people in your marketing team - it's surely not possible for everyone to show their true personality. There must be a bit of consistency there, so how do you manage that process?

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

It comes down to the fact of: as a company, ‘What do we stand for? Who are we?’ and getting really clear on some of those values. I've worked for huge companies in big marketing roles, and sometimes those values are just like some poster written on a wall that people were like, ‘oh, yeah, yeah, those are our values’.

It's about making sure that you embody those, and that everyone is part of that conversation - and gets to input to that conversation. Then turn it into really practical ways. I was watching something on greenwashing the other day, about people saying, ‘We're really environmentally-friendly’ and then they do something that really isn't. It's a big and deep conversation that, for a company, this isn't a five-minute thing.

For me, as a personal brand, it's super easy. I just say, ‘This is what I like and this is who I am’, and that's fine. It is going to take time, but honestly, at the point that you do that - you stand out. You then get those people who get you, but it's got to come from the center and the heart of the business - and what they're trying to do and who they're trying to serve. It doesn't even always have to be big, heavy, ‘this is what we stand for’ or ‘this is the change we're making in the world’.

A really good example of one of these is Tesco Mobile. I don't know whether you've ever seen Tesco Mobile's Twitter, but I used them as a case study quite a few times. So basically, (and I would have loved to have been on the marketing team that pitched this because it would have just been hysterical to watch) they have a real sassy response on their Twitter. I guess you're thinking, it's mobile phones, they're trying to compete with some of the big boys out there. Basically, their responses on Twitter are hilarious, and that is a big, massive company that is showing up, and yet they are being very authentic and showing a very strong personality. And it's hilarious, and yet people love it.

There was a great example I used on a presentation once where this woman had tweeted saying, ‘When you phone your MCM (which apparently is Man Crush Monday, I had to like look at it) and it goes to answerphone, and it's Tesco Mobile’. So basically, she was dissing them, and she didn't tag them in. They obviously were searching on their own stuff. They then replied going, ‘Yeah, and you realize he’s too good for you, and you get yourself 10 cats and you become the cat woman’. They literally went back with this rude retort. Then this woman came back and was like, ‘Yeah, but I don't need no man because I'm this.’ So then Tesco Mobile was like, ‘Yeah, girl. No, you don't. We've got your back.’

By the end of this whole thread, this woman was like, ‘Yeah, Tesco! You've got my back, you’ve always there for me.’ and it's like, hang on a minute - she started the conversation dissing you. Then, by the end of the conversation, she's now acting like you're her number one company, because they showed up authentically (as they deemed authentically, that obviously might not be authentic to other people). But, that's how they respond. That's the voice they've got. That's the personality they put through. And, it worked.

If someone that size can do that - I'm not saying, by the way, if you're listening to this, you've got to go to your MD and go, ‘Right. We need to start giving some sass on social media.’. That isn't necessarily what I'm saying, but showing up authentically could be the best thing ever.

David Bain:

How do they go about implementing that? Do they simply recruit a youthful team of social media experts and give them free rein to say what they feel? Or do they maybe get everyone that is the kind of stakeholder, with regards to the voice of the organization, into a room and actually thrash out what should be the personality of the organization?

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

I think there's a mix of all of that. I would imagine it's come from the marketing agency. I'd imagine they're probably working with a very young and forward-thinking agency, who were like, ‘What if we just did this? What if we tried doing this? What if our personality was this?’

Then, I think it's got to come from a trial-and-error point of view because there are some people that will really not like that, obviously. There are some people that will be really turned off by that. What would have to happen within that situation is there would have to be some guidelines in terms of, ‘Where do we stand on this?’ because there's got to be. You can't have someone going on there saying something that is potentially seriously damaging for that business. There’s got to be some elements of guidelines from above and that's approved, and then there's got to be a testing period. There's got to be: ‘Well, what happens when we do this?’

Like I said, that's almost a fairly extreme example, because they are so sassy. But I think in terms of just trying it out - and I'm assuming within the business, there had to be that kind of young, fun, hilarity of how they deal with stuff, because otherwise they couldn't do it authentically, or it wouldn't match up.

That's the other thing. So let's say - and I don't know, I've never been on Tesco Mobile, but let's say when I phone, there's someone very stuffy, and serious, and grownup speaking to me on the phone, but yet on Twitter, they're hilarious. That's not adding up. Again, you've got to think about all the touchpoints of that customer, in terms of actually ‘Yeah great, let's show up authentically here.’

I'm a really easy example. I'm a certain way when I do my podcast. I don't script it - I recorded one yesterday, and I actually messaged my team going, ‘Make sense of this, if you will’, because I literally just chatted randomly. So if they came into my world - and came on some training or met me an in-person event - and then suddenly I was very different, then you've lost all that authenticity. Then you put in an element of doubt and an element of, ‘Hang on, I can't trust you because you played me. You made me think you were this type of thing and actually you’re this.’

The other key thing is not only when you're having those discussions about the marketing messages and being authentic with marketing - you've got to look back at every touchpoint of the business and the ethos of the business. Like I said, I can only assume that's what it is. That actually, it's all the same thing, because if I speak to the customer service team on the phone and they are nothing like that - I don't expect them to give me sass on the phone, obviously, but I do expect it to be a fairly relaxed and informal conversation - really friendly. I don't expect them to be very strict and stuffy and serious and judgy. I expect them to be quite young, quite chatty - probably call me by my first name. It's got to be across the board, and that's the only true way it's authentic.

David Bain:

Is it not a concern that they might go too far - they might say some entirely inappropriate joke - and if so, how do you actually backtrack from there?

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

Oh, yeah, that’s got to be a concern: that that is the case. It's that trust element, and when you have good company values - when your company has values that you live by and all your employees come in by - then that will help ensure that everyone is on the right page, rather than having to just teach you that thing, and try and work that thing out.

There's got to be examples of where people have overdone it. Now, obviously, with something like Twitter, it’s so fast-moving that to try and get approval on all of the things would be impossible. When it comes to things like Instagram, you can take your time and you can look at it and go, ‘Is this the right tone of voice? Is this correct? Are we happy with this?’

And I think being honest about - another example I've got of authenticity is when KFC ran out of chicken. They wrote a really good, heartfelt marketing message. The copy at the bottom was like, ‘We messed up and, not only do we mess up, we put our staff and our customers in a really bad position.’ and again: being authentic. I actually read it and instead of thinking, ‘What an absolute nightmare company’, I read it thinking, ‘Do you know what? Fair play. That's really good that you said that; that you recognize that you've put undue stress on your staff and on your customers, and were really honest about how you messed up.’ That's where that authenticity comes.

David Bain:

And I believe what they did was they published a paper advert with that apology - and that fairly aggressive manipulation of their brand - allowing other people to take photographs of that and share that on social media, so the customers became the stars as well.

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

I read it going – and whether I agree or disagree - and actually with that, I think it's quite hard to disagree - but whether I agree or disagree, or whether it's aimed at me or not, that's up to me to decide. They're being authentic. They're standing by their stuff. They're owning up.

That's the other thing: when you are being authentic, if you mess up, you say sorry and you say, ‘We messed up’. Because you're not being authentic if you're trying to hide it - if you're trying to shoo it away. Let's say, for instance, someone on Twitter on Tesco Mobile gets a bit too excited and puts something up, then own it and go, ‘We're really sorry. We want to be fun, and we want to do this, and we try and engage a bit of humour into what we do, but we took it too far.’ It's that honesty when being authentic.

David Bain:

As well as Tesco Mobile and KFC, you also US Dollar Shave Club as a great example of authentic marketing. So please explain why?

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

They're brilliant for a few different reasons. Their authenticity comes through, based on who their customer is. They know really well who their customer is, and their authenticity is so in line with their customer, that they just do it brilliantly.

Their Instagram account - they know who they're talking to, and they are sharing content that they know their customer is going to want to hear in a very authentic, and funny, and human way. ‘Authenticity’ and ‘human’ could almost be interchanged in terms of meaning the same thing. Are you marketing in a human way?

For instance, on their Instagram, (and I had to bring it up as it's not current, as I'm talking at the moment - this is an example I've used in the past) one of their posts is how to take a perfect dating app profile pic. They know the concerns of their customers. They're showing up authentically, in terms of ‘This is who we are, this is what we care about.’ They are a company that based their shaving products for young men. And when I say young men, it's probably not just for young men - I'm sure any person of any age can use them - however, they know that their customer core is young guys, and they care about how they look. Therefore, they're posting content around the concerns of their customer - and they're being really authentic in that.

They're being really honest about the stuff they're showing up in, and how they're relating to them. They've got another post that says it's okay to cry like Niagara Falls, and they've got another post that says, ‘When your friend’s breath is so bad you can smell it over the phone.’ and a funny picture of this guy holding a phone. They're being really authentic, and they're being really smart - do not get me wrong, this is really strategic. However, they know who they are as a business.

In fact, if you go and search ‘Dollar Shave Club’ on YouTube, the very first marketing they ever did was a video, and it was flipping hilarious. That's obviously who they are as people. Basically, they did like this parody of some kind of normal advert - do search ‘Dollar Shave Club ad’, it will probably come up and it is so funny. They basically went, ‘Yeah, we're really funny. We are funny, young guys who like to take the mick out of each other - who like to act silly - and we know we are attracting similar people.’ They have stood so firmly in there.

They are a shaving company and a shaving subscription. They could easily have targeted middle-aged corporate men, but they're not middle-aged corporate men. They might be now, but they weren't when they started. They were fun, and silly, and stupid, and liked to be joking and things. They've stuck with it and gone, ‘This is who we are, so if you don't like our sense of humour - if you don't like how we make fun of things - then we're not for you.’

Therefore, even though their product could perfectly serve a huge spectrum of people - I look at it, and I think it's funny, but I'm not their customer and I don't think my husband who's in his mid-40s would look at it and think, ‘Oh, yeah, I want that.’ - but I can see the humor of a young person. Whereas my stepson, who's 19, might think they're flipping hilarious, and therefore might want to buy their stuff. They're showing up really authentically.

David Bain:

Great example. What I take away from that is: yes, absolutely you need to publish content about your products about your services, but you also need to publish content that really resonates with your target market. That's probably not about your product - about your service. It’s about something that makes them stop and listen and absorb what you're saying and engage with it. Then suddenly, they're exposed to your brand, and then perhaps you can tell them about what you do.

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

Yeah, and don't get me wrong - in this set of six images that I'm looking at, that I used as an example, there were two that were product based. One was how to take care of your skin while you shave - so it was quite practical, but just advice. It wasn't selling. The only actual selling one was a picture of the shaving cream but, again, they use it with humor. It's surrounded by broccoli, and it says, ‘It's like when your mum snuck vegetables into your spaghetti, except the vegetables are skincare and the spaghetti is your grooming routine.’ They’re even using humor when they talk about their own products.

You're totally right: it's authenticity alongside knowing exactly who their customer is and exactly what will entertain their customer, what will engage their customer, what their customers want to see. This element of fun and hilarity, alongside ‘How to take a perfect dating picture.’ They’ve really understood. Another one that I haven't said, which is the last one on this grid I've got in front of me, and this is funny: ‘This morning, the shower was full of hair, so I assumed my roommate shaved in there but when he came home, he still had a beard.’ Obviously, this makes the mind go to all sorts of places. But again, they're talking about a roommate, so they know who they're talking to. They know the level of conversation they've got to have. And they do it brilliantly.

David Bain:

Well, let's move on from what works now to planning for the future. So, in your opinion, what is the biggest marketing trend or challenge for marketers over the coming year?

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

So obviously, because I've wittered on about this for the time to be talking, I think one of the biggest challenges is showing up as a human: it’s showing up authentically.

Our customers and clients are way more savvy than they used to be - and rightly so. They are tired of being a number, and being just on the end of purchasing. They need to see the human behind it.

I was at a conference the other week, and they were talking about Gen Z, and how Gen Z are really passionate about particular causes and particular aspects - especially things like the environment, poverty, and all of this sort of stuff. What they're going to want to see is where companies stand on this stuff, and not just a line on the website. They are going to want to see the proof and the kind of work they're doing. Particularly that audience – and obviously that audience are growing up and they already have a huge amount of spending power - but that audience wants to align with people who align with them.

That is going to be very hard to do if they don't know what you stand for - if they're not sure who you are and what is important to you and how you're showing up authentically. The last thing they would want to do is align with someone who isn't working the way they want to work, or isn't standing for the stuff that they do.

Especially for corporates, this is probably one of the biggest challenges going forward: getting that sweet spot between being very comfortable about showing up authentically, showing up authentically where everyone is in line in how that looks, and that's embedded into the business as a whole. I do think that's a challenge that they're gonna have to look at.

David Bain:

I've been your host, David Bain. You can find Teresa Heath-Wareing over at Teresa, thanks so much for being on the Strategic Marketing Show.

Teresa Heath-Wareing:

Thank you so much for having me, David. It's been a pleasure.

David Bain:

And thank you for listening. Here at IFP, our goal is simple: to connect you with the most relevant information, to help solve your business problems, all in one place.