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Fashion gets real with authenticity marketing

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Fashion |OPINION

London - Realism marketing. It is a new advertising tool utilised by brands to connect with consumers who are just like 'them' by engaging in authentic communication. It began with the now infamous Dove 'Campaign for Real Beauty' back in 2004, where ads featured real women rather than airbrushed models or celebrity spokespersons.

Fashion has since caught up and is using authentic marketing techniques to connect with consumers. These days, attainability and relatability to a brand are key to resonating with a well-informed consumer and to ultimately drive sales.

Brands are creating relatable marketing content

From plus-size fashion campaign, to showcasing different body shapes and non-traditional model ambassadors, brands are creating more realistic and attainable marketing content.

The trend has been gaining momentum over the past year, and is finally impacting at mass market, emerging in bigger-budget campaign advertising. Social media has been the driver of this type of content, with brand fans' own posts and the influence of newer social platforms, such as Snapchat, creating an environment that needs more real, and less perfect, content.

Brands are responding to this new desire for authentic content in everything from the messaging used in-store and online through to the models and influencers fronting campaigns.

Can realism be inspirational?

Despite this newfound authenticity agenda, it is still a tough landscape for fashion marketers to tackle. The biggest challenge is striking a balance between keeping the messaging real and still selling aspiration. Would you buy Louis Vuitton's latest bag if it was modelled by your average girl next door? Would it still be aspirational? Isn't the styling and just-out-of-reach feeling what spurs us to want to buy into a brand? Especially a luxury brand?

Brand marketers tackle this in a number of ways. One of the most effective is by starting a conversation with a brand's online community and using a common hashtag to track the dialogue.

This is a trend that is only going to grow, with more fashion brands making the shift to a more real content approach in 2016.

When Dove launched its Real Beauty Campaign in 2004, it received both praise and criticism. Praise for its realism and diversity, but criticised for driving its sales, making it seem less authentic.

From a psychological viewpoint, numerous studies have shown that adolescents look toward people they see in the media to define what their own bodies should look like. The aversive impact is the more they compare themselves, the more they strive to be thin thus the more they dislike their own bodies. Many self-esteem initiatives have attempted to teach adolescent girls to avoid comparisons with models because they are fake, airbrushed, photo-shopped, and unhealthy.

The bottom line for any brand, however, is to raise awareness and increase its sales. Just how many brands are concerned with the effect of their messages despite their embracing of realism marketing, is something that is difficult to gauge.

Some campaigns, like the recent Nike Better for It initiative launched last April featured a web series depicting the inner thoughts and uncertainty that go through women’s heads when exercising. With the campaign Nike aims to encourage women to exercise for the sake of being #BetterForIt, rather than for cosmetic reasons or societal pressures. A positive message even if you should be wearing their latest exercise gear and trainers.