What makes a brand “authentic”

In the world of visual communication, sometimes it’s hard to know what is really authentic. When it comes to branding, it’s even more difficult as there are many brands stating “authenticity” through their identities and packaging. But are their products really authentic?

Authenticity is a huge trend right now because many consumers are leaning towards traditional values, searching for those products or services which are reliable, “true” to their word(s).

So what are the drivers for Authenticity. According to the Authentic Brand Index they are originality, personal utility, declared beliefs, sincerity, familiarity, momentum and heritage.

Let’s look at the last one:

Branding Heritage

We all know many brands with a long heritage. A long “brand-story” to tell us about the origins of their brands, their products; originally made in a traditional manner. These, I believe, are the truly “authentic” ones, that have stood the test of time, have evolved to meet the needs of a changing consumer, a changing market and a changing world.

Take a look at Gucci.

The company was established in the 1920’s by Guccio Gucci in Florence , Italy who wanted to manufacture high quality leather goods.

The equestrian-inspired accessories attracted a refined clientele, and the now signature horsebit and stirrup motifs were introduced to the line.

In 1947, the brand introduced the famous “Bamboo Bag” – which quickly became one of the biggest selling and timeless pieces that Gucci would make.  it is still manufactured today. You can find a 1960’s version here on sale for $1,845.00.

1960’s Gucci Vintage Bamboo Handled Bag

The trademark green and red web was developed and trademarked in the 1950’s. Inspired by the saddle girth and dressage theme of Gucci which continued throughout this decade.

Green and web stripes part of the visual language of Gucci.

Guccio died in 1953 and his son Aldo, along with his other sons Vasco, Rodolfo, and Ugo, took over the company and led it into another era by opening the company’s first boutique in New York.

The 1960’s saw Gucci’s role in the international luxury market expand with stores opening in Paris, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and throughout the U.S. It was during this time that they adopted the interlocking G logo that now emblazons most of the design house’s wares, introduced the Flora scarf that would become a celebrity favorite, and debuted the Jackie O bag.

The Interlocking “G” logo introduced to the fashion market in the 1960’s.
Gucci’s Jackie O (Bouvier) bag

These brand traditions and “savoir-faire” are very different to the “authenticity” taking place in the fashion world right now,  a discourse about fair-trade, organic materials, counterfeits, etc.

Saving Africa, one T shirt at a time…

For example, AFR Clothing – Educating AFRica One Shirt at a Time. “Look good while doing good.” AFR is an example out of thousands. The reason I chose this one is that it’s Facebook Page is called ‘Authentic Fashion Renaissance’.

It states: “AFR was founded in 2009 as a social entrepreneurship firm. AFR has committed to donate a portion of proceeds to a charitable organizations in AFRica. Purchase of One Shirt will go to Educate One Child in AFRica.” The web-site doesn’t tell us much about what it does and how it does it… so for me, it’s not “brand authentic”. I don’t have the ‘history’, the facts, the inside info, so whilst I like the brand identity and it’s premise, it isn’t talking to me in the same way.

If we look at the food industry, Authenticity plays a huge part in our perceptions of brands. We now want to know where are food comes from. Is it healthy? Is it organic? Its traceability etc.

If we take a look at Heinz, they are doing something very clever, as they have a brand with a long heritage, but they are using it to develop new “authentic” brands such as Pure NZ.

Know which farm your frozen food comes from…

Their strategy is an interesting one. It’s a frozen food product, not perceived in the same way as fresh foods, but it’s using “authenticity” in it’s traceability. Something with other frozen food manufacturers are not doing.

it’s claim:

“Heinz is letting every Australian and New Zealander know exactly what farm their frozen veggies are coming from.”

The Heinz Pure New Zealand range is a range of premium vegetables that embody the product’s origin and authenticity. It creates an offer of quality, unadulterated by genetic modification. The packaging is authentic, honest, transparent, environmentally sensitive with a sense of humour (read it!)

“Like a recyclable bag of sunshine, free from dodgy claims…”

There are some interesting strategies being developed around Authenticity right now, so think about it, is your brand authentic in how it communicates? Can it be more authentic in terms of its promise to customers, it’s customer service? The way it’s produced? It’s heritage?

Authenticity is not going to go away!

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