What’s an Authentic Brand?
Let’s get things straight. Authenticity isn’t the latest style to stick upon your product. It isn’t the organic ingredients you find in your orange juice, it isn’t the original artwork on your T-shirt, and it certainly isn’t the casual attitude behind a well-chosen celebratory endorsement.
Authenticity is the relationship and respect that wary consumers demand from companies today. Why such a craze for authenticity? First of all, we’ll let you in on a little secret: your customers don’t crave authenticity—they’re just sick of everything else. Marc Gobe, President and CEO of Desgrippes Gobe Group, calls this trend a “reality check.” He is careful to state that this authenticity craze does not mean consumers have curbed their interest in escapism and fantasy. “It is fantasy that pretends to portray reality that may well fall under attack” Gobe states. It can be useful for brand creators to think of authenticity by what it is not rather than by what it is.
So, What’s An Inauthentic Brand?
In short, a brand that tried to be authentic and failed.
What renders a brand inauthentic is a failure to understand its customer base. This failure causes the brand’s attempt to attract customers appear out-of-touch, insincere, or, more often than not, downright manipulative. It is a disgust and annoyance at such communication failures that drive customers away from failing brands and lead them toward what they perceive as authentic brands.
A successful authentic brand, according to co-founders of marketing think-tank Strategic Horizons LLP, James Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine: “…should conform to the self-image of loyal customers, and thereby become authentic to them.”
Unfortunately many brands fail to understand this, feeling that they can somehow attain authenticity by adding the right ingredients to their product or “convincing” the right target-market that they are the real deal.
Why can authenticity only be achieved through branding?
Well, what is a product without a brand? This is the rhetorical question Douglas B. Holt, L’Oreal chair of marketing at Oxford University asks in his best-selling book How Brands Become Icons. A branded product has a history; it has “…been filled with customer experiences.”
Now, an authentic brand must fill itself with authentic customer experiences. When How Brands Become Icons was published in 2004 iconic brand Polaroid was going through a long, painful bankruptcy after failing to retain relevance during the onslaught of digital cameras. Although it stopped producing cameras the famous brand is predicted to generate 1.3 billion dollars in retail sales through its inclusion on digital cameras distributed by PLR IP Holdings.
That is the power of the authentic brand.
True to Holt’s definition, the Polaroid brand is filled with positive customer experiences. With a brand name so iconic it has become a synonym of “photograph,” the Polaroid brand, which has outlived its original company, will continue to be linked with authenticity and quality. Polaroid is a brand to aspire towards.
Epic Brand Failure
Unfortunately, far too many companies understand the power of the authentic brand, but not the makings of the authentic brand. In our next Drive Branding article, we will examine the important link between authenticity and branding. We will explore mistakes and misconceptions many companies make as they struggle to create authentic brands—and what you can do to avoid them. Lastly, we will examine a recent success case in which a very famous “inauthentic” brand, Mega Bloks, have opened and pioneered an exciting niche market.