I have spent a lot of time thinking about how people come up with new ideas and inventions. I have often read and heard about James Dyson and his 10,000 iterations, but how did he come up with the idea that there must be a better type of vacuum cleaner in the first place? Similarly, with Apple, what was their initial thought process behind the iPhone? How did they manage to create a product which revolutionised the mobile phone industry?
When Steve Jobs stood on stage and revealed the iPhone, or when James Dyson pronounced to the world that he was revolutionising home cleaning apparatus, the reason they could do this was because we, the public, believed in them. They were authentic in their announcements and, fundamentally, their delivery was underpinned with this authenticity.
In my previous article, I wrote that the aim of any company is to build trust with their clients. However, with a certain recent event focusing my thoughts, I want to take this initial idea further. Not only do you need to critically establish trust within your brand, but you must also ensure it is grounded in authenticity. For without authenticity, you come across as a company dictated and driven by a façade of marketing which is not representative of your beliefs.
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We live in a culture which, for all its faults and issues, has the ability to ensure transparency for individuals and companies. This means that an individual or company can be exposed in one of two ways: either they can be revealed as having a veneer of ‘values’ or ‘ethics’ which do not stand up to modern-day media scrutiny, or they can be shown to be a person, or brand, who lives and wears their values with pride.
Amidst my musings, this particular event clarified my thoughts. In one single instance, my understanding of the critical aspect that’s needed for successful delivery crystallised.
It is this level of authenticity that separates the great from everyone else. While you can be successful in business, or as an individual, without authenticity, this success is merely material; only skin-deep. Authenticity is what drives legacy; it is what inspires generations to remember and look back with admiration and respect.
So, what was the single event, the inspiration for this blog? Of course, it was the recent furore surrounding the advertising campaign which was released (and then recalled) by Pepsi. Here was an advert and brand which brazenly tried to piggy back on contemporary, cultural movements and talking points, neither of which married-up with its values. Thus, it came across as lacking authenticity and completely lost the trust of the public.
PepsiCo state on their website that they believe in customer care, truth and respect. This combined with their long history of big ‘it’ stars of the moment, such as the Spice Girls and Cindy Crawford, who have previously featured in their light-hearted ad campaigns, has meant that Pepsi had accumulated a vast amount of consumer trust.
This time, however, those involved with the making of the advert missed the critical element. Values are not something that can be printed out and stuck on the office wall, and changed when the economic, political, and social landscape fluctuates. They are the core of how an individual or a company acts. For a company, they are a badge of honour that their employees and customers can be proud to share in. They can’t be messed with, or paid lip service to. They have to be authentic, otherwise customers will view the business with the same apathy that the company treats its values with.
Society, and the workplace, is awash with five distinct generations who all have different drivers, values and aspirations. Companies are striving to find ways to bind both their employees and consumers together. You can establish trust as a brand to lay the groundwork for success, but, to truly deliver success which is both impactful and sustained, a company must have authenticity. Live and breathe your values; never just hop onto the latest cultural trend. A brand that operates in this manner cannot be sustained.
As a final thought, for 8 years, from 2007 until 2015, many of us were encapsulated by the world of Don Draper and Mad Men. Don Draper pitched the idea of “Pass The Heinz”, which was rejected by the executives at fictional Heinz. Yet, fifty years on from the fictional world, Heinz have approved the ad in the real world. The interesting point is that this pitch never featured the product, but only items that are absolutely associated to eating with ketchup e.g. fries, burgers, etc. Here is a classic example of a company realising that their authenticity stems not from a depiction of their product in glamorous (or controversial) surroundings, but rather from a depiction of a scene which is intrinsically linked to their product. This is absolutely underpinned by authenticity and a respect for clients, customers and champions. This is a brand which has hit the mark with consumer trust.