The Authenticity Gap - that should be the title of my next book. Well, I don’t think I have time to write another book, it took me almost 5 weeks last time. I guess I will need at least 8 weeks. But no. Maybe a blog post, it takes only 15 mins. I do like the name, but I guess it won't sell well. Maybe "Authenticity Without Commitment", this is a far better title, I think I can sell 20,000 copies and sell a lot of seminars. Will get sponsorship from BP for sure.
Marketers have been talking about authenticity and brands for a long time and have been trying to be authentic, they are using the wrong tool. And often they don't know what it means. Advertising doesn’t make brands authentic. They build awareness and interest… but rarely building brand equity these days. That was a very different case 20 years ago. Today every individual, organization and brand is struggling with closing this gap.
When you are being viewed as ‘authentic’, people will tolerate your mistakes if they are the results of good intent, understand you’re human and seeing you as ‘real’. Consumers want ‘real’ brands, ‘real’ companies that empathize, and ‘real’ leaders that care. When public relation companies get ‘real’ in using social media, it simply widens the gap. Same problems with CEOs, employees want ‘real’ leaders that do not read out from a prewritten piece of paper, they want ‘real’ leaders that understand their needs. It also include saying and doing the very difficults, telling an employee that he is not the right fit for the job in an honest and respectable manner is part of being authentic, helping that individual to find his core is more important than force fitting someone into a job that he/she does not have the passion or the potential to be best at.
Consumers also want ‘real’ brands and products that mean they accept the ‘imperfection’ and ‘limitations’ and want the ‘transparency’ to go with it. 90% of advertising out there doesn’t pass the ‘authenticity’ test. I am tired of advertising that tries to be cute and I am sick of those ads in which the CEO shows up and talks about how they care about consumers. Stop Botoxing your companies, start changing the core of the organization and start ‘doing’ what is responsible for shareholders, societies and the environment.
All authentic brands are in many ways is the identity reflecting on company culture and leadership. They help that culture become visible and understood both customers and employees. They also embody the values and purpose of the company and give them a face, a personality and a voice that can be seen and heard. The mistake people makes is they try to engineer that from a marketing perspective, from extending that from the core. Icing is icing, it doesn’t change the quality of the cake.
That’s why many organizations are now relying on Corporate Social Responsibility to make organizations authentic, it is not a PR campaign, it is a business strategy that informs the brand, product development, customer service and marketing strategy. It is simply the best thing a company can do – going back to the heart of the company/brand and rediscover that the inner voice and use that to remind the public / employees that organizations can also be human, it is people making decisions, not a machine. We made mistakes, we correct them. We don’t ignore it and turn on a PR machine and hopefully if we spin them enough people will forget it.