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Unreal Marketing: Violating the Axioms of Authenticity

by James H. Gilmore, B. Joseph Pine II  |  
February 19, 2008
  |  7,733 views

The following is an excerpt from the book Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want.

Authenticity is in the air. You see it, feel it, all around you. Most of what we experience in today's consumer-oriented society revolves around issues of what is real and what is fake.

Postmodern theorists constantly write about the interplay and intermingling of the authentic and the inauthentic. But one need not be well-versed in Jean Baudrillard's concept of simulacra or familiar with Umberto Eco's musings about hyperreality to see what's going on. A single day of shopping will suffice.

One Unreal Day

The John Deere Tractor Alarm (with "Authentic John Deere Tractor and Barnyard Sounds!") goes off at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday morning, awakening Brenda and Eddie to the tune of Joe McBride's "Keepin' It Real." Brenda beats Eddie to the shower. She washes her hair with Aussie Real Volume Shampoo, then treats it with Aussie Real Volume Conditioner, having colored it a week ago with L'Oréal Preference #9 (Natural Blonde) because, well, she's worth it!


After relinquishing the shower to Eddie and his Get Real Natural lavender shampoo, Brenda blow-dries her hair and adds some Aussie Real Volume Styling Whip. She then slides on her cotton shirt from Real Clothes over her Hanes Authentic Tagless T-shirt and dons a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans ("Authentic Denim Outfitters"). Done showering, Eddie quickly towel-dries his hair, combs some Just for Men hair color (Natural Real Black) into his increasingly salt-and-pepper beard, and puts on his favorite Faded Glory shirt ("Authentic Style").

Downstairs, Brenda cooks up some scrambled Egg Beaters ("99% real egg whites") while Eddie pours a bowl of Post Blueberry Morning cereal ("with Real, Wild Blueberries"). They drink Simply Orange Grove Made orange juice ("made with bits of real orange") while the Gloria Jean's coffee ("Authentic Mocha Java") brews. They agree that after the kids are up she'll head to the grocery store while he runs some errands and then starts some early Christmas shopping.

At Giant Eagle, Brenda picks up a twelve-pack of Coors ("Real Rocky Mountain Beer") and some Bud Light ("Fresh. Smooth. Real."). She then gets some cereal: General Mills Berry Bust Cheerios ("with REAL sliced strawberries") and Post Honey Bunches of Oats ("with REAL BANANAS"). And because the kids love it: Cocoa Puffs Milk 'n Cereal Bars ("The NUTRITION of a bowl of cereal with Real Milk").


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James H. Gilmore is coauthor of Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want (Harvard Business School Press) and The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage.B. Joseph Pine II is coauthor of Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want (Harvard Business School Press) and The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage.

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  • by Kimaya Wed Feb 20, 2008 via web

    Just theory. One mans point of view against other. What is the proof that if you say you are real people will call you fake. Infact some of the most memorable campaigns are based on the theory of real and it works!

  • by Jason Fri Jul 3, 2009 via web

    True for a lot of consumer goods, but the authenticity is largely based on user experience. It's hard to trick me once, but impossible to trick me twice. Not to mention consumers talk about their bad experience on Facebook and Twitter all day long.
    Delivery is the key IMO.

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