The Illuminist Blog

The Challenge of Authenticity

Posted by Jon Thompson on December 28, 2015

If you’ve been looking closely at product labels recently, you may have noticed an onslaught of words such as “Artisan”, “Hand-crafted”, “Genuine”, and “Since 19XX.” While many companies have been enthusiastic about joining this trend, it’s important for companies to remember that these buzz words won’t have an impact when there’s not an authentic, shareable story in place to support these fashionable claims. Many brands are struggling to find ways to tout their “authentic” element, but there is a much larger, and more important component of authenticity than printing the word “authentic” or the year you were founded on a label. Consumers want to know the larger story behind the brand—a statement of purpose or values that resonates with them. Many brands are unaware of the authentic stories that are constantly unfolding in connection with their products—just waiting to be told in a compelling manner. Brands would do well to commit ongoing resources to the uncovering and sharing these narratives and by allowing the brand’s consumers be the heroes of these stories; letting their words and actions bring the story to life.


The Challenge
True authenticity inherently requires risk and requires a brand to give up some of the control. Many younger consumers tune out calculated and controlled messaging and can sense inauthenticity a mile away. And these younger audiences are more savvy and distrustful than ever. Nearly 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising1, and this number is only slightly lower for baby boomers.

Keeping It Honest
Authenticity is about embracing every part of a brand, not just the positives. In recent years, Domino’s Pizza began boldly and openly sharing the negative comments from their customers and detractors. This is a risk that many thought would result in a lesser brand reputation, but Domino's trusted that their customers would appreciate their honesty and renewed commitment to bettering the brand by listening to the more critical consumers. Fortunately, taking the risk to be transparent and authentic ended up being a huge success, with a 30% plus share increase in 20142. When a brand relinquishes total control and allows a more organic, conversational narrative to emergethis is when consumers show increased interest in engaging with a brand. In our user-generated content run world, this can feel intimidating. It may feel foreign and uncomfortable at first, but more and more consumers have stated they value this transparency and authenticity in the brands they purchase.

Using Stories to Your Advantage
If stories are inauthentic, consumers will see through the facade. True stories featuring real people have proven to be a great way to cut through the ad-speak that consumers have become so jaded to—and we’ve found that nearly every brand has stories that are just waiting to be discovered, shaped, and shared. This is so vital because people are no longer just buying a product or service, but are investing in the values that guide how a product is created. A great example of showcasing how a product is made to demonstrate a brand’s core values can be found in Crispin Hard Cider. Bolster was able to work with Crispin to create a short film that showcases the story behind the cider. The piece highlights how they’ve made a commitment to fresh-pressed juice and continue to make decisions that value quality over economic efficiency. Sure, they could use juice from concentrate - but what would that mean for flavor?

We hope you enjoy From Orchard to Bottle and begin to think about what stories are waiting to be told that celebrate your brand’s authenticity.

Crispin Hard Cider / Orchard to Bottle

Bolster my brand


Topics: Storytelling