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Brand Authenticity Isn’t What You Think It Is

Have you ever thought about how the demand for more brand authenticity is higher now that we’re living in the most inauthentic time in society’s recent history?

People grumble at the so-called programmatic approaches that separate them from their hard-earned dollars while giving up those same dollars for apps that promise hundreds of perfectly aloof followers— and dammit, they better not be robots this time— along with premium Lightroom filters that’ll make an Instagrammed mimosa pop as bright as spray-kissed (fake), digitally enhanced abs (more fake) at a pool someone else owns (most fake).

Oh, the hypocrisy! Please remove the carefully curated plank from your personal brand’s stylish eye before removing the speck from mine. How can a brand be expected to ooze authenticity into the world when living, breathing human beings can’t figure out how to do the same in their ACTUAL lives? Is anything real anymore?

Is Anything Real Anymore?

Even the data we use to target our audiences is inauthentic. In the sacred scroll
of the same Google search, you can read that Gen X is financially wrecked, but also, Gen X is financially fine. You read that Gen Z is the most free-spirited generation ever, but not quite as wild as generations before them.

“Even the data we use to target our audiences is inauthentic.”

We’re expected to show that we have full control over our lives while proffering out a perfect image for the world to jealously approve of with a currency of “likes” and Giphys. Do we really have control? The tools we use to craft our online personas exist as templated copies of the last poor schmo who has a real life, with real imperfections, just like everyone else. You see the same Canva templates, with the same Facetunes, on the same ten platforms that two-point-something-billion—literally—other people use.

Authenticity has been Wounded

At societal scales, authenticity is a thing that’s been wounded—gashed and hurt beyond all recognition except to the select few who truly know us in our real-life struggles. All of our proudest achievements, greatest hurts, and biggest insecurities are played out in full view of everyone we envy—filtered, perfected, and sprinkled amongst the memes, multi-level-marketing schemes, and “life hacks” that promise to finally make our lives the very thing we’re so sick and tired of pretending to be.

facetune, fake photo

“Curating every single moment to be ‘on brand’ is the exact opposite of being authentic,”

 

What is Brand Authenticity?

Exploring this new reality leads us to a fundamental question: what is the authenticity that we so crave to impersonate? It’s certainly not taking pictures at juice bars, or status updates about how Whole30 has made our lives 200% better—not that those are bad things. It’s just that curating every single moment to be “on brand” is the exact opposite of being authentic. Authenticity has to leave room for failure, and flaws, and saying or doing really stupid things that we don’t actually agree with. The problem is that we pursue—as brands, and as people—the appearance of authenticity over the substance.

When we shed our fears of not being perfect and finally accept that life often has bumpy paths that we’re not fully in control of, then we can live authentically. The brands that are there to lead people to this lost revelation are the brands that will connect with the tired masses through content.

Stop embracing perfection. Know that your customers are human. Stop dumbing down your message to the lowest common denominator, and let people know that even when life’s not perfect, everything will be OK.

That’s an authentic brand.

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