The power of authenticity

A great column by Professor Mark Ritson in Marketing last week, taking about the importance of authenticity. Had me nodding my head vigorously from start to end. Here’s why:

Consumers have always wanted authenticity: Mark says:

"Consumers want brands burned with the mark of their founders, not artificially engineered by their agencies. They want to know who made the brand, where and why".

Great quote. It sums up pretty well the whole idea behind this blog and my belief about brands based on substance, not spin. Most of the brands blogged about here are "burned with the mark of their founders" (e.g. innocent, Apple, Gu, Method, Harley Davidson. Aston Martin).

Consumers are smart: you can’t invent authenticity. You either have it or you don’t. And trying to invent it may work at first, but you’re likely to get found out. As Mark says, "Most consumers are a lot smarter and more genuine than the marketers who target them."

If you have it, why waste it? Mark has a go at the advertising for the Citroen C5, which has had me scratching my head as well. The idea of this ad is "Unmistakably German. Made in France". Uh? This is a brand with a proud heritage of design and innovation, with a touch of French flair, trying to ape German values. The idea being, in theory, to suggest Citroen has quality of German standard.

I’m with Mark when he says "Over the long term this will damage the brand associations, and leave it in no man’s land".

Beware the tenuous celebrity link up: Another campaign I’ve struggled with is Gordon’s Gin using chef Gordon Ramsay in its ads. The main reason seems to be that he shares the name Gordon with the brand (and he’s demanding of quality, loves Gordon’s gin etc.). The problem is that this bloke also endorses loads of other products. And Mark suggests they should have done more with the story of the real Gordon, Alexander Gordon, who created the brand over 200 years ago.

Here’s another classic Ritson quote to tattoo on the arm of your creative team: "The challenge is to find out what makes a brand special, define it and offer a contemporary execution of it".

You can download this an all his other weekly columns here. Well worth a look.