A transparent society has led to a greater desire for authenticity, or vice versa. In any case, this has pushed brands to use authenticity to creative and often inspiring ends.
The word ‘authenticity’ hardly rolls off the tongue. Nonetheless, it’s gained a huge amount of momentum over the past couple of years in agencies and among clients.
Sometimes it almost feels like it’s an obligatory part of a three-course brainstorm platter – no sooner has a big plate of croissants and a silver cafetiere of coffee arrived on the table, than people are already picking the word, thoroughly chewed, from between their teeth.
But with good reason, though. A sense of authenticity is important to consumers, and can really help elicit an emotive response and connect people with brands more than anything else.
It’s impossible to fake it, too. Thanks to the transparency afforded by social media, blogs and comment posts, people are now incredibly adept at weeding out the phonies.
This is good news for Creatives, as it often forces the idea to be paired back to the bare essentials and sing without all the unnecessary bells and whistles. The minute the CGI is added is the minute when the consumer’s eyebrow is raised just that couple of cm higher and the integrity of what they are looking at is called into question.
But why this hunger for authenticity, and why do people seek it out?
Well, firstly people are at the beck and call of technology and digital communications more than ever before. You just have to look at mobile handset ownership, the ubiquity of social media and the still-increasing second screen usage figures to appreciate the demand that always-on connectivity puts on their attention levels.
Among these touchpoints is hosted so much content of dubious provenance from web rumours, conspiracy theories, airbrushed pictures of models, quantities of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, CGI-generated movies and filmic content and PR-fuelled spin and news stories, that true authenticity is becoming increasingly harder to find.
But it isn’t just authenticity for its own sake. It’s what is within it that matters: truth and insight. And humans simply cannot get enough of those two things.
In some ways, the search for authenticity is a lot about the nature of identity itself. People will always be predisposed towards filtering the world around them to try and figure out exactly how they fit into it, and measuring their own lives and actions against others.
Intel’s Museum of Me had an interesting take on this. Using the metaphor of ‘self as museum exhibit’, it was a powerful notion for people to see a visual depiction of who they are in a succinct and entertaining way. Authenticity as identity.
Honda, meanwhile, used a product for a more serious purpose; to identify the roads that remained intact, using its 3G network of Internavi equipped vehicles, in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 tsunami, to help gain access for rescue workers and equipment. Authenticity as a force for good.
And, being no stranger to the idea of authenticity being used to position a brand (and as one of the first to explore the concept digitally, with Evolution), Dove gave people the means to effectively remove the negative, artificial, gloss-focused banner ads on the internet and replace them with positive messages instead. Authenticity as self expression.
There are, of course, many other examples out there.
Myriad ways of seeing, exploring and capturing authenticity as a means for connecting with consumers.
Brands couldn't really ask for more.
But to achieve it they have to put a flag in the ground and strip away all the marketing insecurities and jargon, and stand for who they really are.
That's the price of authenticity.