Tuesday, January 21, 2014

positional authenticity

Holding my hands up, I've been guilty in the past of wheeling out skunk words like 'authentic' in the past.

Luckily one has sobered up somewhat now.

Giddy on social media and 'prosocial' kool-aid is my only excuse m'lud.

There seems to be plenty of others still caning it, however.

Try this one for size.

"The Human Era is about a fundamental societal shift in relationships," explains Simon Glynn, Lippincott EMEA director in Warc. "As people lose confidence in institutions, and put greater trust even in total strangers, companies need to rethink how they connect with people,"

Full marks to Glynn for 'labelling' his 'thing' from the off.

But when have people ever had confidence in institutions?

Do we really place great trust in total strangers?

Have companies ever connected with people?

Glynn then goes on to describe the six characteristics of trusted brands in this Human Era, namely: customer empathy, behaving like real people, being open and real to the point of being flawed, not being boring, caring about the little things and empowering individuals 'to be the brand'.

[Yes you did read that correctly - 'empowering individuals to be the brand'.]

"Many brands talk about the importance of customers, but few actually deliver on their promise and make an authentic connection," he continues.

Putting the general babble to one side and turning down the volume on the kumbaya soundtrack for a second, just notice the liberal sprinkling of authentic and real.

We should always be mindful of the fact that any notions of authenticity in a market economy are by nature inauthentic.

They are purely positional.

In pretending that a goal of 'authentic connection with our customers' comes before shifting product this faux-pursuit of the authentic simply makes the output even more phony.

So what Glynn is talking about in the Human Era is really urging brands to demonstrate 'conspicuous authenticity'.

Because the market truth is that all consumption is about status. Sorry hipsters.

Authentic, flawed and real are pure positioning, and just as inauthentic as any other marketing.

And that's fine but let's not start trying to claim any higher ground.

And as Andrew Potter says in - his splendid tome on this kind of stuff The Authenticity Hoax - 'That’s all fine and good except for one thing: we don’t have a clue what we mean by authenticity, and even if we did, we wouldn’t know how to find it.'

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