Can Marketing be Authentic?

After decades of mass production, of cheap plastic goods stacked haphazardly in landfills, and mass consumption of fast food, and expensive high end gadgets, it seems that we’re looking for something more tangible.

Handmade goods have a specific audience: a discerning consumer base that wants to know the story behind the product they’re purchasing. It’s no longer about the cheapest product, or even the most expensive one, instead it’s about the narrative, it’s about the hands that crafted it.

We’ve been overwhelmed by stories of suicides in Apple factories, and the word ‘help’ stitched into Primark clothing, and we know that people suffer so that we can buy into the myth of ethical mass production. The recent New York Times piece on working conditions at Amazon has shown that fast living is harmful to all involved, except the companies themselves who turn over record profits.

There’s a lack of care, there’s a culture of exploitation, and there’s a disturbing amoral tendency to ignore the plight and suffering of people slaving away to create products for Western consumers. It’s time that we sought out authenticity, and ignored the constructed variant that companies like Apple sell.

Storytelling and Marketing Myths

The Apple brand is marketed well. It uses myth to sell its products. Apple hints that it’s a green company, one that strives to limit its carbon footprint, and one that promotes fair working conditions in its factories. It has a cult like audience who will happily queue over night to purchase the latest, slightly upgraded, product.

We don’t buy the Apple watch because it’s a watch. We buy it because it’s repurposed and sold by a company who understands the power of storytelling. But I think we’re becoming less enamored by the tale the company spins. We’re looking for something authentic, something that stands out for its uniqueness, a product that could be flawed, that might not be perfect, but one that’s made by a real human being.

The chain of custody is important to us. Bespoke makers and creatives are the future of the digital economy because we want to work with people, not institutions. The internet ushered in a new era of connectivity, it made purchasing products easier, and mass production made things cheaper too.

But it comes at a higher cost, one that we shouldn’t pay. Authentic products are important because we know that they’re ethically sourced, and we can buy into the narrative, and feel moral too. We don’t have to ignore suffering to enjoy our products, we just have to do some reading, and make sure that what we’re buying doesn’t harm the environment, animals, or other people.

Selling Authenticity

The internet puts the burden on us. We can research easily and we can ensure that our lives leave more of a positive impact by knowing what we’re buying into. But can companies and brands sell authenticity? Or is it a by product of ethical communications, and carefully considered products and services?

The recent revelations about brands like Apple, Amazon, and even Google, has shown that people are becoming enlightened, they’re less inclined to take a brand at face value. We now know what we’re buying into with those companies, and we can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse. Those brands are inauthentic, and we know that they prize profit over the rights of workers, or even their obligation to pay taxes. Branding is all about selling an image, it’s all about conversions, so is it possible to sell authenticity?

This infographic from breaks down the techniques used by Apple, Google, and Amazon to avoid paying their taxes.
This infographic from breaks down the techniques used by Apple, Google, and Amazon to avoid paying their taxes.

Consumers are empowered with their digital tools. It only takes a simple internet search to uncover truths about a product, and discerning customers can quickly find out if they want to support a company. Authenticity will never belong to big business – it’s not innate to their makeup.

But small businesses, people making things, and striving for creative expression can find authenticity in their actions. By simply making a product, or offering a service, without the middle man involved allows for people to know what they’re buying into, and most importantly, who they’re buying it from.

Jam Jar Aesthetics

Authenticity is an over used word, and it’s been saturated by big businesses who have appropriated the jam jar hipster aesthetic to sell to millenials. Corporations are all about making money, they have no love for the objects they sell, and they harm people and the environment with their products.

It’s time for consumers to opt for high quality handmade art. It’s time for people to reject the values of mass production and commodification, and choose instead authentic businesses, whose services do no harm, and who work to create things that are original, bespoke, and made because creation is a calling, not a money making scheme.

Marketing can be authentic, but it depends on the person selling you the product. Do some research, make your own mind up, and buy ethically sourced products that don’t rely on human suffering or animal testing, and choose sustainability over image.

Find stories that mean something, find a company that you can support because it reflects your values, and let the myth of big business and its grand narrative of globalisation and profit fracture and break.

How do you feel about using Apple, Amazon, and Google? Leave a comment below.

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