Authenticity or Good Bye

Authenticity or Good Bye

Editor’s Note: It’s time for a game, fans of P180! The following post contains a concrete example of inauthenticity planted specifically to see if you can catch it. The text cites numerous real examples of real life flubs, but those don’t count. The inaccuracy you’re seeking is something a good writer should never produce and a good fact checker should spot. See if you can find it!


When I bring this stuff up in the wrong crowd, they tell me, “Get a life!” But to me, the most important attribute in any communication, particularly a communication in which you’re trying to sell me something, is authenticity.

If your message gives me the tiniest whiff you didn’t research the facts or you don’t know what you’re talking about to start with, I turn, walk the other way, and never come back. A bad first impression is the only one you’ll get to make with me.

Authenticity is especially critical when communicating to an enthusiast audience. Enthusiasts voluntarily follow a pursuit. Nobody forces them into hunting, fishing, shooting sports, personal defense, camping, hiking, biking, or any other pastime. As such, they seek out knowledge and experience in their chosen pursuit. They become “nerds” of their passion.

This mindset is nearly polar opposite of that of mass-market consumers of perceived necessities. It’s the difference between “I want to buy a new fishing rod” versus “The car needs new tires,” or “There has to be a better wireless company out there.”

The poster child for this difference has to be last year’s Verizon TV commercial titled, “Magnificent Geese.”

The mass market of consumers seeking “the best” wireless service can likely overlook the fact that this commercial spot willy-nilly intermixes barnacle geese and Canada Geese which don’t even inhabit the same continent and don’t even remotely look like one another.

As a passionate waterfowl hunter, bird watcher, and wildlife enthusiast, I remember the double take nearly giving me whiplash the first time I saw this commercial on TV. Because of the enthusiast’s prism through which I view the world, the first question to run through my brain was, “How stupid do you think we are?”

Now I have to admit, I was a Verizon customer before I saw this commercial, and I still am. I’ve tried a bunch, and Verizon offers the best connections in the places I spend my time. However, if I were not a customer and saw this commercial, I never would have considered them because my conclusion would have been, “If they can’t get a simple thing like geese right, how can they get something as complex as wireless, right?”

However, had this atrocious example of inauthenticity come from a company trying to sell me hunting gear or outdoor optics, I’d have listed the stuff I own on Craig’s List the next day and sought another brand. Or if I didn’t own gear of that brand, I’d have made note NEVER to buy their stuff.

Horror stories of inauthenticity in enthusiast marketing abound. Actually, at Primer 180 we’re glad about that. It means clients need our work. Here’s just one example:

Before coming to Primer 180, one of our clients had a project to develop graphic instructions on properly adjusting hunting binoculars to the eyesight of individual users. The working title was “How To Adjust the Diopter Setting on Your Hunting Binoculars.” This client’s audience is exclusively North American and primarily white-tailed deer hunters in the Lower 48. The gear they sell is blue-collar, American redneck all the way.

They delivered precise, authentic, step-by-step copy to their then agency.

What they got back was a hunter traditionally dressed and armed for stalking chamois in the Austrian Alps, Photoshopped onto what appeared to be the cart path at Augusta National Course – magnolia trees and all! He was supposedly looking through outlandishly large European binoculars (that cost about $3,500) at a rag-horn wapiti bull.

When the draft came back, the client made a dash to the pharmacy for a double refill on her prescription for blood pressure meds, but she dutifully noted the errors, sent it back, and told them to make the revisions – American hunter, in the hardwoods, looking at a trophy white-tailed buck plus step by step images (to go with the instructions) of where and how to make diopter adjustments.

After two more rounds of revisions, they had a serviceable piece of content.

Unfortunately, the client was contracted with this agency … so the NEXT project was to create a step-by-step graphic on how to quickly estimate the score of a white-tailed buck in the field during hunting season.

On the first draft, that one came back with the lead image of a buck in the middle of summer, wearing a thick layer of velvet on its engorged, growing rack. In case you didn’t know, that’s not even close to hunting season and trying to accurately score antlers at that stage is impossible for a trained deer biologist … much less a couple-weekends-a-year hunter for whom the message was intended.

Argghhhhh! Like I said, horror stories abound! And like I said, at Primer 180 we’re glad they do! We are authentic, so you are, too. Let us show you!


Editor’s Note: Okay, now it’s time to reveal the “hidden” inauthenticity! Do you think you have it? Any golfers in our audience? Where did it look as though that Austrian hunter was Photoshopped? On a cart path at Augusta National? ERRRRRRRRRRRR! Inauthentic! There are no cart paths at Augusta … it’s strictly a walking only course. Don’t let that kind of inauthenticity trip up your marketing message. Call Primer 180.