Companies move towards brand authenticity in their marketing tactics

“It’s all about being authentic and unapologetic.”

These were the words of Arby’s fast food chain CMO and brand president Rob Lynch after Arby’s launched this very unexpected end-of-the-year ad. According to The Wall Street Journal online, ‘In early October, Pepsi reached out to Arby’s with a friendly reminder: You need to include us in one more ad this year. The problem was that Arby’s already had its end-of-the-year creative ready to go-and it didn’t include Pepsi”. Arby’s admitted that they just plain forgot.

Public company transparency is mandated, we know, but it’s important to remember to not only be transparent with your investors, but also authentic. Take a cue from the three videos below when thinking about being authentic to the interested parties in your company.



Arby’s creative partners (after a “directive from [the CMO] to ‘make him uncomfortable'”) decided that honesty was the best policy on the air as well as off. And people are loving it. The ad only premiered in Minneapolis, New York, and Los Angeles markets, but since then it has both gone viral online and done wonders for the chain’s digital marketing success.

Adweek calls Arby’s upfront and apologetic ad, ‘another gem from a growing vein of meta ads that poke fun at the marketing process, peeling back the curtain and inviting savvy consumers to take part in the joke’. The most successful of these gems is the infamous 2014 Superbowl ad that never was from Newcastle Brown Ale. Adweek writes that Newcastle knew they could never air a Superbowl ad, since they had ‘ a media budget for the whole year equal to about half the $4 million price tag for 30 seconds of airtime on the broadcast.” So they decided to be honest about their status.  Newcastle created an online marketing and ad campaign called “If We Made It” that ended up “crash[ing] the biggest advertising showcase of the year with refreshingly honest and hilarious online content”.
Watch actress Anna Kendrick rip into Newcastle and tell them to ‘suck it’ in the most popular ad of the campaign:

MediaPost online gives possible reasons as to why more companies are now ‘getting meta’ with their advertising and marketing process (and getting big successes from it too.) “It’s based on the understanding among marketers that social media has atomized marketing–everyone is a marketer now, really, at least to some extent, even if that medium is one’s Facebook page”.

The Canadian telecommunications company Telus has tapped into this ‘honest social media vein.’ They knew that a scathing Facebook review or angry Tweet against their company may very well be seen by hundreds. Instead of ignoring the inevitable complaints, Telus brought the angry tweets to the people in a new online segment on their YouTube channel. The company smartly turns the complaints into a strength at the end of the spot, showing that they don’t hide criticisms, but they’re doing better and now have less complaints against them.

Companies that have discovered a healthy sense of self-deprecation and a ‘joke’s on us’ attitude are getting people listening. MediaPost writes, “meta-ads…work by commenting on themselves, on how they target the target by playing on stereotypes about the target; by being exhibitionist about their social-media strategy…in some cases affecting an ironic, jaded tone is effective”.

Bloomberg Businessweek also applauds the Arby’s ‘Oops, we’re sorry Pepsi’ commercial for their “no bullshit approach”. The man behind the refreshing Arby’s ad talks about what he calls “brand authenticity” and how more and more companies are “slowly catching on.”

This tactic won’t work for everyone, as Bloomberg also states. If every company tried this meta, brand-authentic approach, “shoe companies would have to tell you that wearing their sneakers won’t make you an athlete, and most beauty products would be out of luck entirely…but as long as most companies still pretend that their products will make you happier…a straightforward pitch for drinking Pepsi at Arby’s will grab your attention.”

Marika Hirsch
Marika Hirsch

As Blender’s Content Manager (aka ‘Resident Wordsmith’) Marika enjoys bringing readers the latest and greatest in both digital trends and IR tips. Follow along on Twitter: