What does "being authentic" mean, anyway? by Ed Geis

What does “being authentic” mean, anyway?

There’s a certain currency to “authenticity” in the world of marketing these days, some might even call it a buzzword. But what exactly does this mean? The word’s power has been diluted perhaps by overuse lately, but it’s an important concept, and I’ve been thinking about what it means to be authentic when you’re in business. For me it’s not a way of communicating so much, of “being real” as they say, but more a matter of “walking the walk” and aligning your business practices with your personal values. Consider Patagonia, for instance—their mission statement is this:

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

The company clearly believes that they can be a force for positive change, particularly around environmental issues, while also turning a handsome profit. I’ve been impressed with how creative they are about “doing good”—they launched a “worn wear” program (https://wornwear.patagonia.com/), for example, where customers can trade in or purchase used clothing. On the face of it you’d think they’re shooting themselves in the foot, but they’ve turned a nonconventional, values-driven business practice in a brilliant way to build customer loyalty and solidify their standing as a socially-responsible company (customers are encouraged to post “worn wear” stories with images and video clips on Patagonia’s website, engaging their customers even more deeply).

It’s just one small example, but offers a compelling illustration of what being “authentic” might mean in terms of business and marketing. At the end of the day it’s about taking responsibility for everything that you do—which, as a clothing company, means potentially creating waste and premature disposal of items that are still functional—and aligning your practices with your beliefs. This doesn’t necessarily mean compromising your bottom line, either, as Patagonia has seen double-digit annual growth. Perhaps authenticity in the sense of how a company like Patagonia practices it shows us how aligning your values, practices, and marketing can be a great business strategy. 

Ed Geis - Web Master, NORTH / LIGHT Studios

Douglas Mott