From politics to media and brands, there is a new growing trend for a scarce commodity. Authenticity.
In the age of the influencer where fake lifestyles, flexing for the gram and endorsing products noone genuinely believes in (or gives two fucks about) the value of the authentic and genuine has soared. From Joe Rogan to Patagonia and Donald Trump (authentic asshole) the world seems to be captivated by authenticity. In fact even tiny amounts of authenticity can give brands and even politicians a huge advantage, as creating genuine connections with your audience is a powerful and amplifying bond.
The power of Authenticity:
Donald Trump’s victory over the Democratic party candidate Hillary Clinton was an important lesson for the world. If people have to choose between a genuine asshole or a person perceived to be pretending to be nice, the genuine asshole wins. In this sense career politicians such as Hillary Clinton have failed to convince the public of their genuine intentions, and all efforts to change the public perception of her were deemed too disingenuous. On the other side of the debate is Donald Trump who seems to have no filter and blurts out anything that crosses his mind. Even with a total lack of consistency in what he says he has built a fanbase of people who appreciate someone who speaks his mind (even if what he’s saying is total gibberish). There seems to be a comfort to someone so uncensored, in that what you see is what you get.
Better the devil you know.
So what is authenticity and how can I use it to promote my brand?
The nature of authenticity itself is elusive. Many who preach it don’t even understand it, never mind posses it. This is what makes authenticity so rare. You can’t fake it. Being authentic means to be fully transparent and honest not only with your customers but with yourself. This is where authenticity becomes tricky. Pretending to have values that you don’t hold near to your heart can easily be seen as a shallow attempt to trick consumers, by millennial and generation Z shoppers. In the age of increasing self-awareness people are now better equipped than ever to recognise when someone (individual or brand) is being genuine. Pretending to be environmentally friendly as part of a company’s strategy to increase their profits and adapt to new trends will only go so far. CEOs who forego profits for a cause they believe in, incorporate their own ethics into the very fabric of the company and reap a rare intangible benefit. Being considered “real”.
Patagonia is a clothing company based in the USA which specialises in outdoor clothing/ active wear. It was founded by outdoor enthusiast and keen environmentalist Yvon Chouinard. Mr Chouinard’s principles formed the basis the company was built on, considering itself to be an “activist company”. By setting the ethos of the company, Mr Chouinard ensures all employees share Patagonia’s vision across all levels. Ex Patagonia boss Kristine Tompkins had been buying land in South America to conserve it for decades with her late husband. She recently made the news by donating a huge area of land (3 times the size of L.A) to the Chilean government to be made into a conservation area. However not only senior positions in Patagonia are reserved for environmental warriors. Job positions for Patagonia describe their applicants’ role as being a part of their bigger vision to “save our home planet”. Patagonia consistently works towards conservation in a genuine and unscripted attempt to save the planet.
Companies making efforts to cash in on authenticity include sneaker giants Nike, Adidas and Puma who collaborate with known street artists and even rawer and more authentic graffiti writers and tattooists such as Lugosis in order to increase their status as “authentic”.
Authenticity in Influencers:
The initial appeal of influencers was the fact that they were seen as less corporate. Regular people who were seen as more authentic, or genuine, than paid models in large commercial campaigns. This is still largely true with smaller and niche influencers who are “heavy” in authenticity although the market for influencers has been commercialised to a large degree, with lots of bullshitty brands using fitness models to sell their shitty weight loss teas. Authentic influencers are the ones that are transparent in their beliefs, stand for something and only endorse products that perfectly match their ethos (they also have to have ethos in order to do this).
The rise of the podcasts:
Podcasts seem to have taken over the internet. Everyone from actors, comedians, aspiring politicians, marketers and everything in between seem to have a podcast. The format is wildly appealing as they are generally more raw and unstaged compared to the equivalent TV interviews or morning talk shows. Many podcasts last for several hours and feature groups of friends hanging out and having uncensored and unguided conversations. The uncensored nature of the podcast allows viewers to get a genuine feel for the podcaster’s character and hence build a more trusting relationship with them.
One obvious example of the crazy popularity of this podcast format is The Joe Rogan Experience. The podcast has grown wildly popular and has even pushed the genre forward with many newcomers trying to copy or customise the successful format. The podcast is unscripted, raw and often funny and random as Rogan seeks to truly understand, converse and form a connection with his guest. This is a direct contradiction, and a breath of fresh air , compared to perfectly staged and often cringey morning shows where presenters try to create perfect sound-bytes by asking their guests nonsensical or racey questions. Followers spending many hours a week listening to the podcast form a relationship with Rogan as they get to see his inner thoughts and working. The fact that he is free speaking, raw, authentic and willing to admit his mistakes publicly has raised his status as an influential person to almost a god-like level. Any product Rogan endorses on his podcast experiences its own “Joe Rogan Experience ‘’ with website visits and sales peaking as the podcast goes live. Furthermore his recent endorsement of Bernie Sanders stirred up a media storm showing the true power that the podcast has amassed.
In the age of increasing self-awareness, authenticity is one currency set to keep growing.
GuerrillaGorilla.CO is a creative agency & consultancy which helps companies better understand the internet and cut through the noise to target their audience.
Sources:Former Patagonia CEO donates 1 million acres of parkland to ChileKristine Tompkins and her late husband started buying and conserving land in South America more than two decades ago…www.latimes.com