Marketing with an Authentic Voice: Is It Worth It? (A Lesson From Disney)

Finding and using an authentic voice in thought leadership is more difficult than marketing gurus let on. From small businesses to big corporations, everyone wants to represent and promote their brand in authentic ways. 

But TRUSTING your authentic voice takes more bravery than most people (and brands) are willing to risk.

Case in point…


Trusting Your Talent

Over the past few years, Disney has produced a number of live-action recreations of their nostalgic masterpieces from The Disney Renaissance era.

The Disney Renaissance era refers to 1989-1999 when Howard Ashman and Alan Menken created Disney classics like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast. It’s low hanging fruit for Disney to capitalize on the nostalgia of parents today who want to share those Disney moments with their kids.

And it’s interesting to note how Disney sometimes struggled to use an authentic voice within quite a few of the remakes. Aladdin being a perfect example.  

Aladdin is unique because the role of “Genie” was tailored for Robin Williams. His ad libbed humor molded a one-of-a-kind character. In the live action remake, Will Smith and the production team took on the challenge of recreating such a unique and iconic role. And the difficulty is most apparent in the “Friend Like Me” song, which introduces “Genie”.

In so many ways. “Friend Like Me” is Robin Williams. So it’s interesting that the movie team went with a shot-for-shot remake of the number from the original film. And, it falls short. (How could it not?!) Keep in mind, the remake included an additional song for “Jasmine” as well as a new party dance number. So, clearly, they were open to breaking away from the original. But they didn’t do so for Will Smith’s opening song. Why?

After all, the end credits of the film rolled to “Friend Like Me”, but it’s a Will Smith version – adding a hip hop beat and using Smith’s musical strengths that made him a Grammy-winning artist. So, it begs the question, “Why was Smith’s version not used in the film?!”

Because, in the end, Disney wasn’t brave enough to lean into the authentic voice of their talent. They weren’t brave enough to say to the audience, “Hey, Audience. We know you loved Robin’s version. And now, we’re trusting you’ll enjoy Will’s version, too.”

Instead, they said, “Who doesn’t love the classics?! Am I right?!” 

So, what they ended up was Will’s best attempt at Robin’s song. 

Imitation over creation.

Breaking the Habit of Marketing Mimicry

So, if Disney sees copying success as a safe bet, then why wouldn’t you?! Why wouldn’t you look at successful examples in your industry for marketing and communication approaches and use those like a template? That’s probably the safer bet, right?

Copying “success” – from the past and present – happens all the time.

People fear using their authentic voice in marketing because their marketing (and therefore, their voice) could fail. And if your marketing fails *with* your authentic voice…does that make you a failure? 

Ouch. Lots of ouches. Some people don’t recover from those kinds of ouches. Most people aren’t willing to *risk* those kinds of ouches. 

Mimicking another’s voice (or marketing approach) is a subconscious tactic to shield yourself from the fear of deeper failure. And that’s ok. When you’re starting out in thought leadership, it’s normal to try out another brand’s style.

Just be warned. Sticking with another’s voice for too long makes it easier for imposter syndrome to creep in and make content creation even more difficult.

And also, it helps to remember that “proven” paths to success often overlook context. And context is critical. Another person’s success is the result of their talents, their life stages, resources at their disposal, their support systems, their available time, their motivations, ….the list goes on and on!

You can continue to find inspiration from other thought leaders. And you can do so without comparing or copying. That’s the goal. 

(By the way, the answer to “Does a marketing failure make you a failure?” is “Absolutely not! Remember to separate yourself from your works. HINT: It takes a lot of mental fortitude.)

What It Takes to Be a Thought Leader with an Authentic Voice

Content creation is a kind of artistic expression. And artistic expression is risky! 

That’s why not everyone is an artist. … That’s why not everyone is a content creator. … Or a thought leader.

If you want to create content that positions you as thought leader, an existential crisis (or two) are bound to show up. Why? Because, and authentic voice gets discovered by answering some pretty deep questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What makes me special?
  • What do I stand for?
  • How do I want to show up in the world?

And if you’ve soul-searched your way to those answers and are now creating like you, speaking like you, and teaching like you (and no one else), then you deserve a freakin’ parade! One in the likeness of Prince Ali’s.

[This article was inspired by this video from Sideways. Check out his work! His channel has been well worth the embarrassing amount of time I’ve spent watching his videos.]

Happy Influencing!

Sharí Alexander - Influence Speaker & Coach - Headshot

Sharí Alexander
Influence Speaker & Coach 

 P.S. Here are a few other ways I can help you increase your influence, whenever you’re ready.


1. I’m putting out a lot of great tips on LinkedIn and Instagram. Follow me for influential insights that help in business and life!


2. Grab a FREE copy of my Mindreader Blueprint. It’s the step by step guide for finding your influential message. Use this workbook to make your next pitch or presentation more persuasive!


3. Booking speakers for virtual events or post-COVID live events? Your audience will LOVE learning about how to be more persuasive! By understanding the influential process (Observe, Connect, Influence), your group will be more equipped to inspire minds and inspire action. You can find out more about my speeches and programs, here. 


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