Why it pays to stay authentic

“The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

“The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

The recent Guinness experiment with its #roundupyourmates campaign served up a barrel load of negative comments.  Guinness took over the entire ad slots on the Jonathan Ross show on ITV, with journalist Danny Wallace and scientist  Robin Dunbar being interviewed by Ross, topped up with canned laughter.

The experiment didn’t work, with a Twitter backlash and hundreds of negative comments. Part of parent company Diageo’s response was to say that…

“We encourage our marketing teams, creative partners and media agencies to be innovative and that means shoot for 10. You might not always get that target but that shouldn’t prevent you from trying new things and pushing the boundaries.”

…which is fair enough.  Making sense of the changing media environment and how consumers engage with it means a certain degree of experimentation, which means getting things wrong sometimes.

But why didn’t it work? Part of the problem was that while the creative execution purported to be a genuine media interview, it was in fact bought as an ad and controlled in its content in much the same way.  In other words, it wasn’t authentic, and viewers could tell.

It’s not just brands that need to be authentic.  Take Boris Johnson’s and George Osborne’s recent mission to China.  The media captured one politician being his usual larger than life self, and one visibly squirming in his role on a charm offensive.  Only one came across as his authentic self, and that one is 5-1 joint favourite to be the next leader of the Conservative Party, despite the gaffes, despite the indiscretions, despite not being a Member of Parliament.

Great actors can ‘fake’ authenticity. We believe Kevin Spacey as a serial killercrooner or Congressman.   But unless you’re a Kevin Spacey, the lesson for brands and business leaders is to be authentic to who you are, and authentic in how you communicate.

 Authenticity wins.


Photo credit: armin.wiedemann