In case you were too busy drinking egg nog or putting together that child’s gift you didn’t realize would be so darned difficult, we want to call your attention to an interesting article that ran in yesterday’s New York Times, which reinforced a few reasons why PRs insist on using the word “authentic” so often. Simply put: being authentic is good for the client’s brand.
A marketing professor, Julie Napoli, defines “authenticity” according to three criteria: heritage, sincerity and commitment to quality. These aren’t exactly things that can be quantified. So being “authentic” is as much a feeling as it is an actual thing.
— ZADY (@Zady) December 28, 2014
In the case of Zady, one of the brands/retailers highlighted in the article and a member of the “slow fashion movement,” they source all their products and the materials that go into the products, everything from the dye in their sweaters to the makers of office supplies.
For Tito’s vodka (which is very good, BTW), it means producing the product in a small batch using “time-honored methods.”
And for Hershey’s, it’s mostly acknowledging their 100-year history.
In the case of Hershey’s we probably don’t think of “authenticity” when we pick up one of their Kisses candies, but for some of the other companies highlighted, there’s quite a bit that they’re doing to earn the right to use this word, which unfortunately has become watered down and annoying.
The biggest takeaway is that being authentic takes work. There’s research and expense involved. You have to become knowledgeable about not just the product you’re making, but its history on the market and why some of these tried-and-true techniques are better than making something more quickly. Moreover, you have to justify the added cost to customers.
On the bright side, customers are willing to pay for the “authentic” experience. Studies show that customers seem to happily pay – and pay more – for something that has the whiff of nostalgia and gives the sense that human hands were involved in its creation.
Many consumers claim that the thing they’ve purchased is somehow better for it. Sure, this could be just a case of branding going to people’s heads; perception becoming reality. But there are plenty of actual cases where handmade goods actually can be distinguished from something that’s mass produced, one just like the other, the result of a consumer society that more people are finding a little bland, distasteful or harmful to larger world. A little imperfection or variety feels like its been custom made just for one individual person in less wasteful ways.
Finally, there’s the storytelling element that comes with all of this, something that PRs should be good at if they really want to service their clients. The article is worth a read if only to get a fresh take on the topic. And heed the warning: don’t run around calling everything “authentic.” People can see right through that.