Sunday, November 05, 2006

Age of Authenticity

We’ve entered the age of authenticity. Marketers can no longer rely on consumers believing what they hear. The curator effect cuts both ways. We reward the sincere and expose the disingenuous.

So, what about the food industry’s trend toward healthier products? I fear that screaming “natural,” “organic,” or “multi-grain” gives consumers permission to indulge in these so-called healthier products. But, organic sugar is still sugar and natural junk food is still junk.
This is part of the dark side of the organic trend. It’s great that toxic chemicals are being pulled out of our food supply. But let us not allow “organic” to become synonymous with healthy as it will fuel consumption of those disingenuous brands that are merely waving the organic flag and wrapping themselves in deceiving labels.

The good news is that, as people curate on behalf of each other, brands that obfuscate the truth can be easily exposed. Recently, Wal-Mart’s PR firm, Edelman, was uncovered as the true players behind the Working Families for Walmart blog. The “wiki” nature of the world these days quickly rights wrongs as evidenced by Richard Edelman’s mea culpa. The effect of the curator teaches these companies important lessons.

You can’t fake authenticity. This doesn’t mean a brand is doomed if it doesn’t have a real Ben and Jerry behind it, but it’s increasingly more important that it tell the truth. Sounds silly to say, but truth hasn’t been a plentiful commodity in the marketing world. The old school holdouts that sprinkle a few whole grains into its product and scream “MULTI-GRAIN” will be found out and, if justice is served, tarred and feathered by the visible persuaders.

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