What is the Authenticity Gap, and How Can Influencers Help Brands Cross It?
November 1, 2022
Updated Feb 09, 2024
Authenticity, authenticity, wherefore art thou, authenticity? The word ‘authenticity’ is often thrown around with good intentions but lacks true meaning. While everyone touts authenticity, do we truly understand what it means to embody it—especially in influencer marketing campaigns?
Here’s the long and short of it: The best ambassador marketing campaigns are rooted in authenticity and require trust to sell a product.Without trust, having a following does not make you an influencer. It means you have an audience.
Without trust, having a following does not make you an influencer. It means you have an audience.
Picture your online community as a building. Authenticity should be at the core of everything you do, you build up with honesty as your support, and with those two things, you can protect and further that relationship through trust.
Why authenticity matters
At its core, authenticity is about honesty—honesty about why your product works, why an influencer’s followers should consider using it, and honesty about their support of that product and brand. Honesty is the root of authenticity, and you can't manufacture that; there is no checklist to integrity.
According to Stackla,88% of consumers say authenticity from brands is important when deciding which brands they like and support, with 50% saying it’s very important.
88% of consumers say authenticity from brands is important when deciding which brands they like and support. / Stackla
Authenticity comes with trust, and when talking about brands and products, that trust is built through an audience believing an influencer’s claims. To achieve that, we need to make sure that the product is woven into the fabric of that person’s life.
How do we get an audience to believe what we’re saying? If you’ve never used a product or introduced it to your followers, this brings us to the authenticity gap.
What is the authenticity gap?
As an influencer, the authenticity gap is apparent when your followers know your post is an ad where you are just a mouthpiece, and the partnership is unbelievable. Or, in other words, 'I don't believe you because you got paid.'
Every time you do a sponsored post outside your realm, promoting a product you don’t like or believe in, where you are basing your message on falsehoods—this widens the authenticity gap. It’s crucial for the content created to bring the audience across that gap to get them to believe you.
The authenticity gap is not a place influencers consistently want to find themselves in. It takes trust-building to help our followers see how we got from point A to point B and why we chose to promote a particular product.
James explains in this video how, in most cases, authenticity is not destroyed in one fell swoop but instead gradually over time.
A good example is Khloe Kardashian trying to sell us a bedazzled Febreze. The chasm between what feels authentic and what IS authentic is where campaigns are won or lost.
How do you close the authenticity gap?
Rule number 3 of our 10 Rules of Ambassador Marketing states: Before you start an influencer campaign, you need to let the creator test and use the product ahead of time to give an accurate and honest testimonial, understand the product benefits, and review it for their followers. If the influencer can weave the product into the fabric of their life, this can help bridge the authenticity gap.
The campaigns where we have seen real conversation and success are those where the product becomes a fixture in that influencer's life, and we allow the influencer to tell the story over a number of posts.
A significant part of persuading someone to make a purchase or decision is getting them to believe what you’re selling. To root your persuasion in believability and authenticity, you need to have either one of two things:
A compelling story
Brand love or a story
In Negronis with Nord episode 36, host James Nord gives a personal example of selling a product using either love (Campari) or a story (non-alcoholic aperitifs).
If we’re trying to help our followers across the bridge of understanding why we’re promoting a particular product, if there is pre-existing love, that gap will be easy to cross. James promoting Campari is rooted in pre-existing brand love. If you saw that ad, you would know James was being authentic. His podcast is called Negronis with Nord.
If you don't love the brand already, you need to have a story. If a non-alcoholic aperitif brand pitched James to sell their product, for example, it would take more time to tell a story about how James got from never talking about this brand to promoting it. Here’s an example of a story:
“Look, you all know I love drinking. I love having a cocktail. I love the process of making a drink. I love that you can sit and have a cocktail with friends and my fiancee and talk about the day. I love that. But I'm also getting old, and I am trying to balance running a hundred-person company, exercising every day, and not being unhealthy. You can love something too much. And I don't want to be drinking every night. I have been using this non-alcoholic aperitif a few days a week to get the like feeling of having a cocktail with people without the side effects of having that cocktail.”
With this story, James roots the key message in a story that’s believable and true to himself—as an entrepreneur who likes to exercise and loves cocktails—and now connected it to something I've never discussed before, which would be a non-alcoholic aperitif.