Faking Authenticity

It is odd to encounter plain spoken and seemingly honest politicians.

Being a professional cynic, I doubt nearly everything. Having been a political animal my entire adult life, I’m doubly cynical about anyone who campaigns to achieve power. To be disappointed in broken political promises is a sign of naivety. To believe any political brand shows trust where there should be none.

So to witness a handful of governors and other candidates speaking bluntly, without equivocation, and taking positions normally considered poisonous … and then watch their poll numbers rise … is both a lesson in marketing and possibly a sign of the Apocalypse.

fake-authenticityAuthenticity matters in all matters. If you could not take your spouse’s word, then your marriage would be destined for the dumpster (which always makes me wonder about Bill and Hillary). When corporations promote products that do not deliver, the acquired lack of authenticity becomes fatal. If Charlie Sheen were to sober-up, nobody would talk about him because his acting chops are not Grade-A. In instances of marriage, political promotions, product pitches and even behaving badly as a brand, authenticity is essential.

Authenticity mechanics are interesting for marketers. If a business remains authentic in its operations, then it creates no net negatives. New customers, having never heard bad words about the offering, are more apt to give it a try even if there are no significant positive recommendations. That alone tends to advance a product once competitors begin to over promote or under-deliver. I once ran marketing for a company whose lead product was ugly, had no GUI and required training to use. But it always worked and there was always someone on the other end of the phone to help, which created in the market an interesting perception of stability, which IT buyers liked.

I have seen the opposite apply. When inexperienced marketers promise more than the product can do, they lose authenticity. When the product performs poorly or is unstable (ala Microsoft Windows), it loses authenticity. When tech support doesn’t, you lose authenticity if it were promised. Political warfare is largely composed of destroying an opponent’s authenticity (Herman Cain was building a brand of authenticity before unsubstantiated rumors of sexual improprieties arose). If Charlie Sheen were spotted praying at a church altar, not only would his brand be destroyed but I suspect the church would be as well via a well placed lightning bolt.

Social media enforces authenticity, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. No degree of smart copywriting, aggressive PR or slick advertising will wash away the ruminations of one angry ex-customer. Betray your brand or product promises and you will be portrayed as unauthentic in digital public squares. Engagement with the masses, participating in social media, reinforces authenticity and may be the new normal for PR.

Authenticity above all else. Otherwise be unelected by customers.


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