Coca-Cola came out with their iconic “It’s the Real Thing” commercial in 1971. With the country overwhelmed by Vietnam, the Manson Murders, and the Watergate scandal – the ad seemed to announce a world where real people of all ages and races, “live together in perfect harmony.”
It was only fitting that the final episode of the epic series, “Mad Men,” concluded with that ad. The central character, Don Draper, has the epiphany that there is a whole new cultural reality in America and that advertising – with its slogans and jingles – better get ready for a new era.
Ironically, it’s taken over 40 years to get to the really real thing when it comes to advertising, and that’s using real people – influencers – to tell stories about brands in authentic ways to their audiences. As the song says, indeed, that’s what “the world wants today.” After all, 70% of people say they’d rather learn about products through content they find themselves rather than through traditional advertising. Influencer marketing, when done really well, finds messengers who would talk about a product or brand, even if they didn’t get sponsored to do so because they already love it.
The “real thing” and its definition as “something that is genuine and not a copy or imitation” presents quite a challenge for traditional advertisers who rely on the old methodology of creating aspirational brand messages and believe they will be absorbed by consumers if they just repeat them at least 7 times. Meanwhile, those who ascribe to “the real thing” in influencer marketing have the confidence to realize that a brand’s message can be told 7, 70, or 700 different ways by influencers, on their own platforms, in their own voices.
When we build out influencer campaigns for clients, our definition of success is having multiple unique messages – all highlighting the brand’s attributes, but told in the influencer’s individual, unedited voice.
“It’s the Real Thing” was indeed the anthem of a generation, and those of us (like me) who grew up during that time, can repeat the song word for word. The reality of influencer marketing is that we don’t want copycat, word-for-word posts. We create a complete story architecture – essentially a creative brief – to give influencers the tools to craft a compelling post and social shares but afford them the freedom to tailor it to their life and point of view. It’s ultimately their perspective that has gained an audience, so we are very careful to not dilute that.
I would personally like to teach the world to sing a new way to market. Finding influencers who are passionate about brands and encouraging them to write about the products they love truly is the new “real thing” in advertising.