11. Make sure your content looks authentic

1. Brief your influencers and agency partners about your brand values in addition to your brand guidelines.

For example, Coca-Cola’s brand values are: Leadership: The courage to shape a better future. Collaboration: Leverage collective genius. Integrity: Be real. Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me. Passion: Committed in heart and mind. Diversity: As inclusive as our brands. Quality: What we do, we do well.

2. Base ad creatives on real-world events and feature talent your target audience can relate to in order to reduce their mental barriers to adoption.

For example, let’s assume one of your brand values is diversity. This is a topic that can mean completely different things in different geographies (not just countries, but also states). In the US, we might want to make sure our marketing represents racial diversity, whereas in Japan it might mean showing women in leadership positions. Most marketing is trying to portray a picture of the life we want to aspire towards: good-looking, wealthy, healthy, happy, and organized. However, life is messy and has a lot of gray tones. Showing real people in real-world events will help reduce mental barriers to adoption, especially when your marketing objective is behavior change.

3. Use your ad creatives to showcase the struggle of your own brand in delivering the product or service.

Showing raw effort builds empathy among audiences. For example, if you are a logistics brand, show the hard-working drivers delivering the goods. If you are in SaaS, show how much testing, engineering, and care goes into building a time-saving solution. If you are building a consumer app, show all the 10 steps you take every day to make sure your users’ data is secure.

4. Add an element of surprise to your creative idea to maximize the chances of attracting earned media.

Surprise is one of the most impactful positive emotions brands can use to drive social sharing. For example, one of Dove’s most famous marketing campaigns, Beauty Sketches, delivered an incredibly strong emotional reaction in the form of surprise and sadness.

5. Analyze your existing customer base and find out who is already an influencer before hiring others.

There is no better talent than those who already love your brand. If your customer base is small, look up potential influencers on relevant social media platforms. If your customer base is large, think of a unique incentive offer for them to come forward.

6. Divide your marketing campaign into steps that involve the target consumers to add an element of participation.

Think of ways to involve your target consumers other than simply liking or commenting on posts. For example, involve your target consumers by asking them to submit a selfie, play a game, or encourage advocacy.

7. Use tools like SurveyMonkey to survey your customers or use social media to find out what your audience cares about beyond your own brand category.

For example, are they interested in climate change? Privacy? Productivity tips? Authenticity can also be built by including cues to these topics and your brand in your creatives.

8. Build authenticity and demonstrate that you care through acts of kindness instead of simply donating money.

For example, show up with your team to clean the neighborhood beach, help the elderly set up their tech devices for keeping in touch with loved ones, or renovate a nearby animal shelter. Creating content out of moments like these can give you great brand-building material.

9. Proactively ask your team for their opinion on your ad creatives, recruit a sample of your customers for their opinion, or hire a market research company like Realeyes, Affectiva, or Human Made Machine to run creative tests to measure authenticity instead of assuming it.

Once you’ve run the tests or collected opinions, pay close attention to the audience’s attentiveness and emotional strength during the ad exposure. These are the best predictors of creative success.

10. Make a checklist out of the above process to revisit whenever planning a new campaign, and highlight the mandatory and optional elements based on your brand.