One of the most important factors for companies to be succesful in marketing is ‘authenticity’. Or at least, such is claimed by marketing gurus. Why is Apple one of the most successful consumer brands in the world? Because of Steve Jobs. And Steve was authentic. Same story with Nike. And Coca Cola. Coca Cola brought the world Santa Claus (modelled after the Northwestern European ‘sinterklaas’) and who could possibly be more real than old Kris Kringle? I dare you.
Social Media. Even more real.
Since the rise of the internet (a sentence like this naturally comes with esoteric chanting in the background) brand shave become more and more accessible to the public. Social Media increased this accessibility to the level of ‘being able to interact with each other.’ Which is a big opportunity for the marketing execs. But it is also quite scary. Because it makes it even more important to ‘be real’ since ‘being real’ is real Important. It is no longer sufficient to produce a beverage that quenches my thirst and tickles my taste buds in the exact way I would prefer it. As a consumer I might also choose to engage with my favorite soft-drink brand. And at such an occasion I do not want to find out that the company is actually run by boring, tired old people who do not give a hoot about my left-wing liberal fast kicks and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Can’t we just fake it?
To quote one of the most authentic politicians of this millennium: YES WE CAN! If we have sufficient funds, we can quite effectively fake authenticity (marketing gurus will tell you otherwise, but that’s the way they make a living after all). Apple is not a cool, liberal company at all. Others without plenty ‘o dough are basically screwed. We will find you out!
I have a big problem with this whole ‘being real’ thing. Why do people think it is so important to be real? If I were a philosopher I would now point to Jean-Jacques Rousseau who may have started this whole thing with his diaries. ‘Confessions’ as he called them. Rousseau wanted to end the hypocrisy of society and liberate authenticity. But I am not a philosopher. To me, Rousseau is just a very real dead French guy. As many of my generation, I want the answers to my questions to come from recent history. If the answer aint 2.0 , it aint no answer at all.
What if the person you really are is a person who pretends to be someone else? And who decides what is real anyway? Does a person get to decide who they are? Or do others decide about it for us? And what about brands? And are we allowed to change? If you think about it, it’s a strange compliment to say that even though he/she became hugely successful but he/she remained herself. That does not actually mean anything. Authenticity does not mean anything.
We all play roles all the time to get things done in all kinds of situations. Playing these roles is what makes us… ehm… real. Let’s just be open and honest about it.