Marketing has been obsessed with authenticity for as long as it has existed. Of late, it’s why Dove has been so successful with its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign (recent body-shaped bottles fiasco notwithstanding).
Consumers subconsciously think of Dove as a bit more than just soap – it is soap created by a company that really cares about how you feel in your own Dove-lathered skin. In fact, it’s not a soap company at all, it is a skin company. Excuse the weird imagery, but you get my point.
In Jonathan Culleron’s 1990 essay on semiotics in tourism, ‘Framing the Sign: Criticism and its Institutions’, he writes: “One of the characteristics of modernity is the belief that authenticity has been lost and exists only in the past – whose signs we preserve (antiques, restored buildings, imitations of old interiors) – or else in other regions or countries.”
As Culleron points out, this leads to tourism marketing that highlights attractions ‘off the beaten track’ or invites us to discover the ‘real Spain’. Dove strives for this authenticity by looking to a world before (or without) social media trolls and airbrushing, when we may believe women were under less pressure to conform to a particular image.
In its recent #Breaking2 campaign, Nike mastered genuine authenticity in a product launch. It did so by positioning itself as enabler of an incredible athletic feat, Eliud Kipchoge’s attempt to run a marathon in less than two hours, and brought its brand back to the heart of what achievement means in sport. It is not about overpaid athletes, Instagram or fashion – it’s about pushing the body to…