Freddie Daniells also writes about Hijacking Authenticity. He worries that the idea of Authenticity is being hijacked to include tree-huggers and exclude others.
Brands such as Hummer Harley Davidson, Viz are unapologetic about who or what they are and have thrived. I may not buy these products but they are as authentic as hell.
It’s a good point.
The thing is, I think it’s the nature of language that individual words are constantly being used by different people to mean different things. I’ve pointed this out about the word “brand” in another post. At the moment, I prefer to go with the flow and acknowledge that the same word does mean different things to different people. And for some, authenticity is synonymous with ideas about sustainability and community. I used to try harder to legislate for what words should mean but lately I’ve decided it’s better to acknowledge ambiguity as a way of admitting more people to the conversation.
Having written a lot about authenticity, I’ve become a bit warier about getting lured into naming what is and isn’t authentic as if I’m an objective observer. I’m not. So – for me – authenticity is more about whether I’m representing myself accurately in how I talk to and about the world.
To the extent I do want to label other people or brands as authentic, on the whole I’d prefer to focus on specific behaviours. So some of what the boss of Ryanair says, which can be very blunt, has a refreshing smack of authenticity. I see lots of problems with budget airlines but I do appreciate that smack of reality they introduced to a business that was utterly mired in complacent fantasies about the luxury of air travel.
One aspect of talk about authenticity that troubles me is when people create impossible ideals, as in some magic list of the ten qualities of an authentic leader, which turn out to be an impossibly virtuous job specification that no flesh-and-blood human being could live up to. In a way, this sets up just the kind of false idealism that makes so much branding boring or somewhat offensive.