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Authenticity, will it retain its buzzworthy status in 2018? Well, according to the 2017–2018, annual Portrait of American Travelers study by MMGY Global, the answer was yes and no. Probably not the definitive answer you were looking for, but the traditional definition of authenticity was expanded, related to travel and meeting visitor expectations.

This simple question; “What is marketing doing these days with our favorite word, authenticity?” The response from the CEO of Myriad, a tourism industry agency, offered a new way to think about authenticity as a marketing tool.

Let’s define, the word authentic. Merriam-Webster Dictionary states:

  • Worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact points; an authentic picture of our society
  • Conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features; an authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse
  • Made or done the same way as the original; authentic Mexican fare

Ok now let’s bring this back to travel. What’s more authentic Disney or a local brewpub? I know, right? Which did you pick? Me too, but Disney is more authentic than a local brewpub? Why? Disney conforms to the purest definition, an original and delivers on the experience, time and time again.

Understand, Disney has not cornered the market on original, Mother Nature reigns supreme over all things original. Look in your own backyard for inspiration: natural springs, wetlands, canyons, caves, mountains, oceans, rivers… OK, you get the idea, so let’s move on.

Al Merchen, President, and CEO of Myriad, further defines authenticity — his words, “I think the most authentic place in the United States is Disney World, and here’s why — authentic is delivering on what the expectation is.” Merchen’s thought on authenticity helped me see this trend in a new light.

How can this new definition reshape your marketing efforts? Think originality plus delivering on expectations to bring new heights to your marketing efforts.

Too many brands lose their glow after posting damaging words. My mantra, thoughtfulness in conversation, which is paramount, in today’s nonstop world of posting. Use this tactic for a blog or social media posts, a customer satisfaction or email response. Words represent your brand; you must always be conscious of your words.

What is your tone of voice? The tone should first align with your brand and should provide a destination’s point of view.

This comes with knowing your visitors inside and out and responding in a kind and sensitive manner. Don’t quickly block someone because of a negative comment. Hear them, oftentimes you will learn something. TIP: If they have a case of chronic complaining then a block is a good line of defense. I’ve also found that loyal followers will come to my aid and give the hater a good beat down. Haters eventually go away never to return.

Assumptions include both good and bad enabling you to speak to these assumptions and show how the bad is improving and how the good is getting even better?

This should be defined by your brand, complete with emotional peaks. For example, maybe your brand is laid-back. Describe it with emotional words that resonate, connect, and then weave the perception of laid-back as an expressed attitude or mood: unhurried, calm, life is easy, no stress here, …

  • Be real, period. You don’t have to enhance every photo. We all know it’s not sunny 365 days of the year, if it’s raining, make it fun; “singing in the rain” or suggest an alternative; a museum, a nearby attraction, a cooking class …

Today videos have a better opportunity to go deeper than a photo enabling destinations to:

  • Inform
  • Persuade
  • Entertain
  • Inspire

I hope this blog post made you rethink the term authentic, and I am so grateful for Merchen’s brilliant take on the word. Let me know if this insight opened-up a new way of looking at authenticity. Will it help you to redefine marketing and social campaigns, content marketing, and marketing communications efforts?

A big thank you to, Al, for his keen wisdom.

Stay tuned for my next post which will concentrate on the true meaning of local tourism, and yes I believe there is a difference between local and authentic. Let me know if the tips I provided above are beneficial. Contact me here.

P.S. Click this link to listen to live MMGY Portrait of Amercian Travelers Facebook presentation. Warning: It is an hour-long but if you’re a travel marketer, or a business that sells products related to the travel industry it’s worth a listen!

P.P.S The Biltmore Estate is a great example of an “authentic” experience, it’s truly original and delivers on visitor expectations. A 2012 economic study reports the Estate sees over one million visitors annually. The power of authenticity in action.

Don’t Change Yourself. Find Yourself. Discover the Soul’s Role in Personality Typing. Guide. Seeker. Dog + Planet Lover. ninazapala.com.