The best brands can’t wait to tell you about themselves.  They can’t wait to interact with you.  They look forward to learning and listening from their customers.  These are brands that act, quite frankly, like we do at home and at the office.  They are authentic brands.  They want to meet us and we don’t mind meeting them.

Not every brand is like this.  Some are too desperate.  Some try too hard.  Some aren’t comfortable in their own skin and try to be something they are not.

When brands struggle, their owners sometimes take chances they will regret, whether it is today or months down the road.  We know what they do.  The dust eventually settles.

The rules of the road for being authentic online are pretty simple.  At least I think so.  To verify this idea, I asked Andy Sernovitz, the founder and leader of, a few questions.

Q:  Andy, people will sometimes talk about a gray area.  But I think it’s more black and white.  No gray.  What is reality?

A: Any time you’re trying to make marketing look like something else, you’re crossing the line.  Especially if you’re trying to make your marketing look like

  • anything written by a consumer — a Facebook post, a blog post, a tweet, a review
  • anything written by an unrelated third party
  • editorial/journalistic content.

Andy, I interpret what you just said as something very simple.  Speak directly as a brand and be proud of who you are!  Don’t try to dress things up.  Speak authentically about what you know to your customers and let them tell you what they think in return.  A conversation, basically.  Ensure it is two-way and it is real.

Q: What are examples of when you know you might be in the gray area?

A: If you have to disclose it, it’s fundamentally deceptive.  I believe disclosure only comes up if you’re trying to hide something and it is maybe a sign that you shouldn’t be doing it.

So Andy, what I take away from this, is that if you’re having a conversation with your customers, you don’t have to disclose, since it is obvious it is already you.  If you have to disclose, it means you weren’t clear in the upfront of that conversation.  And I’ve always believed that great behavior online is similar to great behavior offline.  You always know who you are speaking with, why you are speaking and you go from there.

Q:  For our readers who are interested in this topic, where can they learn more?

A: Well, that’s pretty easy.  They can hear me talk about this subject at one of our meetings.

Thanks Andy, this is an important topic that is not about nuance.  It’s about being authentic every time.  Great brands love talking directly with their customers for better or worse.

By the way, we appreciate what has offered to hundreds of companies…..a place where brands can learn from each other about what’s next and why it all matters.

Enjoy, Bob