I’ve just picked up a book from the library entitled Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, which also happens to be the thesis. From the inside jacket I gather that the authors are trying to demonstrate how businesses can appear more authentic to a consumer who is increasingly desensitized by and cynical of attempts to induce him to buy a product or service. Authenticity, it seems, is the new black.
However, the very title of the book presents a paradox: you cannot consume authenticity. If authenticity is defined as that which is fundamentally real and without pretense, then manufacturing the pretense of authenticity destroys the meaning. Pretending to be authentic is a nonsensical idea, and attempting to sell authenticity is itself an inauthentic action.
Here’s a real-world example: the corporate mission and values statement. They’re flashy; they’re ubiquitous; they’re often effectively meaningless. I’ve worked for a company that used the statement as a cover for poor business practices, and I’m currently working for a company that seeks to embody it’s statement as fully as possible. The difference is striking: one company advertises authenticity, the other lives it.
Wow, that’s a big response for a book I haven’t read yet. Now to see whether I’ll have to eat this post. (I like my blogs with a bit of pepper and a handful of salt).