Joseph Pine argues that Authenticity is becoming the new consumer sensibility — the buying criteria by which consumers are choosing who are they going to buy from, and what they’re going to buy. (The idea was featured in TIME’s “10 Ideas That Are Changing the World.”)
“Authenticity” may seem like a hard standard to strive for since it’s so difficult to pin down. Typically, everyone you ask is likely to define it differently. So how are businesses meant to move the needle against such a touchy-feely metric? Pine turns to Shakespeare for his definition: “To thine own self be true. And it doth follow, as night the day, that thou canst not then be false to any man.”
He really captures the heart of the matter by saying “we’re shifting to an experience economy, where experiences are becoming the predominant economic offering.” Perhaps the best example of that, is Disney, “the world’s premier experience-stager” as he calls it.
Pine measures authenticity using two dimensions: 1) being true to yourself, which is very self-directed. 2) being what you say you are to others, which is directed toward others.
As he puts it “Disney World is wonderfully true to itself… When you are there you are just immersed in this wonderful environment…Disney World.”
But Disney, as a company, got themselves in trouble by forgetting their history and not having a clear idea of who they are as a business, which is a common mistake. Pine said, it’s important to know your heritage to appropriately limit what you can do in the future. About 10 or 15 years ago, Disney — the company that is probably best-known for family values, bought the ABC network, affectionately known in the trade as the T&A network. Then it bought Miramax, known for its NC-17 content.
“All of a sudden, families everywhere couldn’t really trust what they were getting from Disney,” Pine said. “It was no longer true to its heritage; no longer true to Walt Disney. That’s one of the reasons why they’re having such trouble today, and why Roy Disney is out to get Michael Eisner. Because it is no longer true to itself.”
“When it comes to being what you say you are, the easiest mistake that companies make is that they advertise things that they are not,” Pine said. “That’s when you’re perceived as fake, as a phony company — advertising things that you’re not.”
About Pine: Joseph Pine’s career as a business coach began at IBM when he did something truly unorthodox: he brought business partners and customers into the development process of a new computer. Taking from this the lesson that every customer is unique, he wrote a book called Mass Customization on businesses that serve customers’ unique needs. Later he discovered what he would coin the “Experience Economy” — consumers buying experiences rather than goods or commodities — and wrote a book of the same name. Pine jokes that his company, Strategic Horizons, ought to be called “Frameworks ‘R’ Us,” after their specialty in helping others see business differently.
Can you think of any companies that are authentic or inauthentic? Leave comments below.