Authenticity


Michael Hyatt offers a great example of new marketing.  Rather than summarize the post I will offer my perspective.  First, you don’t have to be in business to apply the principles of new marketing (read the post to find out what they are).  I actually think we would all be more productive and get along better if everyone applied them.  Second, authenticity is an under-appreciated aspect of customer service.  For more on authenticity click here.

In this article, the author outlines how Trader Joe’s has developed its cult-like following.

1) Trader Joe’s knows its customers.

  • He is “overeducated and underpaid.”
  • If money were no object, he would choose a Mac over a PC.
  • He likes Tina Fey.
  • He has been to Europe, and probably was on some kind of academic fellowship.
  • He would have voted for Obama over McCain, and he probably has a few kids. &c.

2) They make decisions based on what they know.

  • The store layout
  • The products
  • The “uniforms”

You have to read the article to find out how about the rest

3) They come up with innovative ways to work around problems for ideal consumers. (HINT: The don’t like corporate America)

4) They create a tangible culture around their product. (Example)

5) Their customers are their best “evangelists” (That’s where the video above comes from)

Leadership begins with knowing who you are and what you believe. Authenticity is the need for leaders to be themselves regardless of the situation. For this reason, it is more than self-awareness. It is the ability to share the deepest and truest part of ourselves with others.

The quote above is from a post by a guest blogger on Michael Hyatt’s blog.  If authenticity doesn’t hook you maybe the fact that the blogger is a former FBI agent will.

I believe authenticity is one of the underappreciated aspects of interpersonal relations in general and leadership specifically.  I have posted about it here.

I don’t have time to write more and don’t want to steal the thunder of the author so I commend the post to you and encourage you to give it a read.

Fortune magazine has a fascinating article about Trader Joe’s on its website.  Did you know they are privately owned by a German company that operates one of the largest supermarket chains in the world?  I didn’t.  Its a great read even if you don’t shop there.  Who knows maybe you’ll start buying organic brown rice spaghetti topped with salt free, fat free vegan organic marinara sauce followed up with frozen soy chocolate sandwiches after you read it.

For extra credit you can comment on how authentic you think Trader Joe’s is.  However, you must read this post first.

One of the more thought provoking books I have read recently is Authenticity by Jim Gilmore and Joseph Pine.  In the book they explain that consumers are making buying decisions based on authenticity, how well they conform to self-image.  They explain in the book that “consumers and business-to-business customers now purchase offerings based on how well those purchases conform to their own self-image.   What they buy must reflect who they are who they aspire to be in relation to how they perceive the world — with lightning quick judgments of ‘real’ or ‘fake’ hanging in the balance.”

To the authors, authenticity comes down to the interrelationship of real and fake.  This can be determined by asking two questions: is the offering true to itself? and is the offering what it says it is?  The answer to these questions are not for the provider to determine.  It comes down to how customers perceive them.

Gilmore and Pine have organized the possible responses to the two questions into a 2 x 2 real-fake matrix.  To be viewed as authentic, consumers must view these factors as being in alignment.  Contrary to what one might expect, the goal is not to be real- real, to be true to yourself and what you say you are.  To demonstrate that the opposite can be successful, the authors classify Niketown as fake-fake.  “The place is not what it says it is, a Nike town, and is not true to Nike’s original internal mantra, “Authentic Athletic Performance,” nor to its now famous internal tagline, “Just Do It.”  Nike does nothing to extend that ethos into its Niketown outlets.  It is Fake-fake – a Nikestore with absolutely nothing athletic to do.”  The authors point out that real-real is the hardest to achieve and the easiest to fall short of.   If this is the case, it fake-fake the easiest to achieve and maintain?

On the book’s website Gilmore and Pine occasionally ask people to apply the matrix to an offering.  The most recent subject is LeBron James.  Their question is simple, was his decision to join the Miami Heat authentic?  Its a provocative question, especially when applied to a person instead of a corporation.  The link above provides resources to help you make a decision and a poll where you can see what other people thought.

From a learning perspective this is an intriguing exercise.  To respond, a participant must have some familiarity with the concepts laid out in the book.  By providing a case study the authors enable the participant to explore the dynamics between the variables.  The actual learning occurs through the exploration.  Having the author’s perspective on each example would help the participant confirm his or her conclusions.