Skip to main content

Authenticity Is Overrated


Scenario 1
"Come over here, Mommy. I have to show you something."
"What? I'm working."
"It's _____. Look at this post on Facebook."
I peered over my computer at hers. 
"There he goes again, trying to be cool."
Sometimes you just want a teacher to be a teacher. 

Scenario 2
A month ago, in the hallway, we bump into The Artist.
"Hi."
"Hi."
"How are you?"
"Oh, I'm fine."
It is twenty degrees outside and snowing. She is dressed for the beach.
It's none of my business; I focus on the elevator, waiting for it to hit the ground level. But looking at her was jarring.

Scenario 3
The end of a great interview, a few years back.
"So if you got this job..."
Sounds good.
"...and if you had a demoralized workforce..."
Oh. That's interesting, that they would say that.
"...and almost zero when it comes to resources..."
A-ha. O-kay.
"What would you do?"
I responded directly.
"As good as I am, I don't make miracles."
And there's that look in their eyes: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Thoughts Re: Branding
In each of these scenarios, the actor was trying to be "authentic," a norm that did not exist in the past.
  • Before social media, it was obvious to all that there is a time and place for everything - and that you definitely should not always "be yourself."
  • Rather, the norm was "situational appropriateness." You should be that aspect of yourself that is called for in a specific time and place.
  • Along with appropriateness there was "consistency" - that is, you behave relatively the same way in specific kinds of situations. Dependability mattered a lot.
Situational appropriateness + consistency are indispensable to building a brand, whether it's personal or organizational. Because in order for me to trust that your brand is real, I must know that you are in touch with what is expected and that you will deliver on that.
(Really we are talking about customer service here.)
How do you get to the point where people can actually deliver?
First there is that attitude adjustment - the ability to think outside-in and the willingness to deliver. The culture.
After that, two other skills are required, foundationally:
  • One of them is technology: You must be able to learn the tools that will enable you to deliver customer service quickly and easily.
  • The other is project management: You must know exactly what it is that you are providing (it's not a single phone call answered, or a single installation, but the whole interaction with the customer around a specific instance). And you must think in terms of delivering  on time, on budget and to spec as part of a team. 
Situational appropriateness + consistency = culture of customer service.
Culture of customer service + technology + project management = foundation of brand.
When you have that foundation in place you are walking - after that you can start to run, and then fly.
Do you see how insisting on "authenticity" can block this?
Because basic capabilities such as the above are "boring," not sensational. Yet they are key to delivering professional service.
There are a few people - the Steve Jobs' of the world (RIP) - who can be unpredictable, spontaneous balloons of creativity and those people should always be "themselves." Even if they do tend to rant and rave a little.
But for the vast majority of us - those who are not spouting genius with every word - it is far more important to be audience-aware and consistent.
People who know what the customer wants and can deliver on that are well-situated for success.
A quick way to think of all this is "McDonald's french fries."
They may not be the best in all the world - I can think of about ten places that do steak fries greasier, saltier and crisper and with a better sauce - but wherever you get them, you know they will be good, and they will taste exactly the same. That, alone, is a satisfying experience, and it's why if you don't know where to go - you will probably head to Mickey D's first.

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

________________
All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …