Why Authenticity Matters

Why are so many restaurants embracing the artisanal food movement with its farmers’ markets and homemade cheeses, breads and pickles? Authenticity.

Why are crafted goods so popular? From bespoke suits to homemade knives, soaps, chocolates, and jewelry, people are seeking alternatives representing something unique and deeply personal.

The maker movement embraces DIY culture in modern mediums like robotics, electronics and 3D printing celebrating tinkerers working out of a garage. At the heart of the movement is a desire for sharing ideas and imagining new creations.

All of these trends are a response to the growing emphasis on mass production and economies of scale; people now crave authenticity more than ever.

Major brands understand this and according to Adweek, companies like Levis, GM, Home Depot and Best Buy are trying to tap into these movements by collaborating with designers and artisans with craft credibility. It remains to be seen whether that street cred will rub off on these behemoths, but the fact that these companies are experimenting with small producers should tell us something.

At the heart of these campaigns is a desire to reconnect with the customer by embracing something special and unique. The company wants to emphasize its understanding of its audience and its personal connection with the customer. Unfortunately, managing perception can be tricky, especially if consumers see these initiatives as thinly veiled manipulation.

According to Andrew Taylor, managing director of global innovation at Boston Consulting, “The small entity must keep a separate and distinct identity; the big corporation is just there to help,” Taylor says. “It all goes [very] wrong if the makers are absorbed into the big brand.”

Crafty Marketing?

Nobody likes to feel like they’ve been deceived, but that’s exactly how consumers feel when they succumb to “crafty marketing.” MillerCoors is being sued for claiming that its Blue Moon wheat ale is a craft beer. The Brewers Association, an American trade group of over 1900 brewers, has criticized Blue Moon for omitting the MillersCoors name on Blue Moon beer labels. Furthermore, the Brewers Association argues that Blue Moon misleads consumers by deliberately using bottle imagery similar to labels used by craft brewers. As if to emphasize the point, Blue Moon has launched the Blue Moon Artist Series, featuring artwork from 20 up-and-coming artists from across the US.

Oh, and that small batch heirloom Bourbon you’ve been sipping may have been mass-produced by a mega-distillery in Indiana. In fact, over 50 different brands from 50 different companies appear to be bottling whiskey from the same factory, MGP – Midwest Grain Products.

According to one micro-distiller who makes his own whiskey, “The smoke and mirrors used in this industry make it extremely difficult. When one company talks about their heritage recipe that was a favorite of a gangster, even though it is just the stock MGP recipe, we all suffer,” because customers feel burned.

Transparency and Real Connections

In the age of social media, it’s foolhardy to feed deceptive messaging to consumers. Companies that embrace social media to create relationships and promote transparency with customers are creating unprecedented brand loyalty.

According to Lisa Macpherson, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Hallmark, “A trend, particularly acute among millennial consumers, is a very strong bias towards transparency and authentic, real connections with brands. This is driving a merging of the concepts of reputation and brand.”

Macpherson continues, “Customer experience is now the fifth marketing P that needs to be managed as purposely and carefully as the product, and the price, and the promotion, the traditional Ps of the marketing mix. We now have to consider how technology enables the service experience, and how sales associates are hired and trained and coached to interact with customers.  Now we see the brand as something to be managed across every single touch point.”

At Systym, we believe that brand authenticity is critically important when it comes to the customer journey. Crafting an authentic connection with your audience starts with a strategic plan for reaching your audience with relevant content aligned with the experience you are trying to support.

The customer journey begins long before a customer becomes a customer. Systym explores the full journey beginning with the triggers that initiate interest all the way through discovery, evaluation, decision and purchase processes.

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