at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Manufacturing Authenticity

In communications, marketing, strategy, Uncategorized on August 30, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Picture 8

Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

Writing authenticity into a strategy deck is sort of like putting on the applause light in a sitcom. Everyone nods in agreement and comments on your ability to speak the truth. I suppose if my goal in life was to simply be rehired again and again I would probably write it in more often. Then again, there is a distinction to be made between an authentic brand and a brand that simply markets authenticity.

When it comes to marketing authenticity brands typically pursue one of three strategies:

1) Since 19XX
Brands are good at making up arbitrary dates in time and being since then. Granted, you may have never heard of the company and they say they have been around since 1827… but just trust them. They’ve been a small cottage industry and have just decided to advertise in Vogue.  Check out 8-year-old Hollister for a great example of this ploy.

2) Associate with authentic people
Book Willie Nelson, Sofia and Francis Ford Coppola or Johnny Depp and watch your sales soar! When in doubt borrow credibility and you can pay it off later at 12% interest. Musicians are particularly good for this since they advance an image of not caring what anyone thinks. Louis Vuitton tried this recently with Keith Richards.

3) Tell a great backstory
This story need not actually be authentic but needs to seem authentic. Brand X was created by ex-Iditarod racers to combat the elements so it should be be good enough for your kid to wear going sledding right? Charles Shaw wine benefited from this early on as consumers and the press perpetuated a backstory for the brand that spoke of a scorned ex-wife who wanted to humiliate her winemaking former husband by putting his name on cheap wine. The truth behind Two Buck Chuck is slightly different, of course.

These examples notwithstanding, Showtime appears to have taken the backstory to the next level. Now, I’ll go ahead and make all apologies in advance to the Duchovny family should David actually have a sex addiction. On the other hand, I will shake the hand of the Showtime executive if he doesn’t. See, David stars in a pretty great little show over on Showtime called Californication about… wait for it… a man with a sex addiction. Oh yeah, and the new season premieres next week. If you’re going to remind people about a series that may have taken too long to come around again… why not do it by suggesting that the whole thing might actually be true?

  1. […] observation he’s already come away with is that most Angelenos have come to accept and expect manufactured authenticity. Scott takes his argument one step further: our generation, he says, may very well be the last that […]

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