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4th December 2017
Why Authenticity is more than the Latest Marketing Trend

The best trends go beyond being just ‘a great idea’ to the nature of who we are as human beings.

In his much lauded book Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman puts forth his analysis of two systems in the brain: the fast system (System One) and the slow system (System Two). System One is instinctive, automatic, and based on gut feeling. System Two is deliberate and likes logic, coherent arguments and analysis.

In the business world we like to think that System Two is king and, with the right amount of reasoning and rationale, we will make the right decision. But Kahneman discovered that this isn’t the case. System One plays a part whether we like it or not. Even when making an effort to stay in the realms of System Two, when it comes to judgements and decision making, System One kicks in.

System One has a lot to do with trust. It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist to tell us that questioning who to trust and why to trust them is part of basic human survival instincts. Who do we let close? Who is part of our tribe and who is an outsider? How quickly and easily can I analyse what is before me to work out whether it will help or harm me?

Today trust is at an all time low. The Edelman Trust Barometer – which monitors the level of trust society has in businesses, governments, NGOs and the media – says that trust is in crisis. (https://www.edelman.com/trust2017/) It reports that “the majority of respondents now lack full belief that the overall system is working for them. In this climate, people’s societal and economic concerns, including globalisation, the pace of innovation and eroding social values, turn into fears, spurring the rise of populist actions now playing out in several Western-style democracies.”

Again, no real surprise when you look at the world. It’s hard to know what or who to believe and why. Despite the proliferation of information available on the internet, factual accuracy no longer seems to be important to those who are communicating.

In this climate, the words “purpose” and “authenticity” are increasingly being heard. We are all looking for a bit of honesty. Honesty in the people that we work with, in the companies we employ, in the brands that we buy from and in the governments that we have put in charge.

Marketing and business have woken up to this. This September, Ad Week reported that authenticity was one of the biggest trends for brands today. (http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/here-are-the-4-biggest-brand-marketing-trends-at-advertising-week/)

However, authenticity is a tricky thing. It’s an easy thing to say, but what does it actually mean? Authentic to whom and to what? Businesses and brands are made up of individuals. We all have different personalities in and out of work, good days, bad days. Sometimes things go right for us and we do well and sometimes they don’t. So does being authentic just mean “be in the moment and let it all hang out”?

Of course not, this is where purpose comes in. Purpose and authenticity are inextricably linked. In my opinion, a good purpose conveys three things: why a company positively exists for its employees, why it positively exists for its customers and why it positively exists for the world. It’s the ‘why’ of what you do that is important. That ‘why’ has to be authentic in order for it to resonate in all parts of the business.

We’ve always believed that ‘why’ driven communications are the strongest and longest lasting, no matter what part of the business they come from and what audience they are for. This is the reason that Connected Pictures has never limited itself to just make customer-facing video content, or internal video content or social impact video content. The best communications all spring from the same place: being authentic and understanding your purpose. And this is what we strive to help people understand.

So why authenticity and film? We are human beings first (before we are employees or customers) and over thousands of years we’ve been programmed to connect with people by seeing and hearing them. To read all the signs and signals of how someone’s face and body move and from that to try and figure out, as fast as possible, who they are and what they stand for. To recognise them as one of our tribe, someone we can trust or as an outsider. This is the job of Kahneman’s Fast System and these judgements happen quicker than we care to admit.

Video (and particularly documentary) gives brands, businesses and organisations the chance to present their authentic selves. To show what they stand for and for whom and to create trust that connects deeper than a fact sheet, or sustainability report. But it also requires that the individuals take time to look inside themselves and know what their purpose is, both individually and as part of a collective.

My mother always used to say “If you can’t be honest with me, at least be honest with yourself.”  And she was right, these things can’t be faked. Being honest, authentic and living with purpose should be the tenet of us all, regardless of whether it’s the latest marketing trend or not.

 

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