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What Is Authenticity?

We use the term authenticity a lot to describe the customer – brand relationship.  With product comparison available instantly on the Internet, consumers have more clout than ever before. This has left companies scrambling to appear “transparent” and “approachable”. In marketing usage, the word has become somewhat of an overused term as an easy way to appeal to consumers, like slapping “All Natural” on a box of granola.

A quick dictionary search defines authenticity as “genuineness” - another subjective, ambiguous word.  In business parlance, it has become something more than that. To be authentic as a company, you must not only be honest, but transparent as well. Let’s define “transparent” with one of my favorite examples:

The clothing company Everlane is a great example of this in practice: the core of their company philosophy revolves around telling a narrative about each of their products and where they are sourced. A tag labeled with nothing more than the country of origin gives only a modicum of information. They don’t provide this information because they are required to, but because their willingness builds a level of integrity that elevates their brand more so than fabrications ever could. And even more, their customers value and appreciate it. And by value, don’t think they pay more. Everlane has found ways to mitigate the manufacturing cost increase through other clever business practices, and tend to cost less than competing products.

Consumers want to know more about what happens behind the scenes, and by doing so, develop a relationship with companies that goes beyond existing as a source of products. The brand builds a fan base by aligning with their customer’s individual ethos.

Originally, companies that used the concept of authenticity tried to shy away from sounding “corporate” or otherwise robotic in their marketing. Now that maintaining a public presence - or face to the name - on social media is expected, it has grown to be a large part of consumer outreach. The concept of authenticity has come to mean presenting the brand as colloquial -  with a dash of edginess. It brushes away the illusion of perfection and replaces it with unpolished pride.


What companies or practices do you find to be admirably authentic?

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