Alicia Keys, the talented musician and singer, was in the news recently for having chosen decidedly to eschew makeup. In a monograph in a newsletter, she said she feels no need to cover up any more. She talked about her journey to self discovery and finding her authentic self which did not need to be hidden under layers of makeup.
On cue, and missing all the irony of Keys’s commentary, Harper’s Bazaar featured 74 models in selfies with the faces they were born with. Hashtag #nomakeup.
Ladies & Gentlemen, authenticity is now on trend, and branded.
In a related development, one of my favourite web friends, Jackie Danicki, has started writing Burned Out Beauty, a beauty blog which is my new not-so-secret indulgence. She was the original beauty blogger in 2004 on the world’s first beauty blog Jack & Hill.
Jackie is not being a contrarian. She took a break, so to speak, and she is back doing something that she loves, enjoys and is knowledgeable about. Jackie is authentic.
The good thing about being authentic is there is no need to be contrarian.
But how can brands find where their authenticity lies? Indeed what is authentic and what are the sources of authenticity?
Eagle-eyed readers will remember my agonising over the “authenticity” of the Porsche symposer some time ago. I ruminated on it a while. After all the car is man-made, as is the symposer, and it is humans that manifested the Porsche vroom in the car’s engine as well as the symposer. It is not about the engine, it is about the sound. Once I had reached that essentialist unifying thread, I was at peace.
Where a sensory signal is not the only or the main signature of the brand, a brand may have to work a tad harder to define what it stands for, what its authentic self is.
A beautiful and effective tool is to be found in a Vedic method of inquiry.
What the essence of something is is often arrived at by answering what it is not.
Neti-Neti. Not this, not this.
Unlike other fixed signals of authenticity, the process of Neti-Neti also accommodates indeed nurtures growth and reinvention. If we are no longer something, if we no longer stand for something, we are one step closer to being our authentic and whole self.
So with brands.
When luxury brands with deep heritage struggle to reinvent themselves and their relevance in a world with modern technology and newness, they can choose to look inward and answer what they are not.
What are you not, any longer?