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customer experience
Tim Wade
  • By Tim Wade
  • Sep 21 2015

Authenticity: The Great Charade

How to settle for more than just a new logo

Buzzwords are to marketing what kebabs are to a drunk. We can’t get enough of them. Now I can’t deny I’ve used my fair share of buzzwords, and I’ve eaten my fair share of kebabs too. Buzzwords in and of themselves, aren’t evil. In fact, some words are essential to convey a new direction for the market. These are usually the words that stick around too, even when the landscape of the market changes. There are some phrases however that need to be axed from all business vocabulary, and it would give me great pleasure to list them; but perhaps in another blog.

“Successful marketing must influence consumers without negatively effecting operations” Russell Weiner

For now, there is a more pressing issue the business world needs to discuss - authenticity; the great charade.

There is no doubt that, in a socially connected world, authenticity is one of the most important facets every business should be built around. However, if brands are truly going to deliver authenticity, many need to change their focus. We hear lots of talk about brands being authentic today. Shiny vision statements assure customers that brands will fulfil promises and become more than just an image-led machine. The talk is often very positive and well meaning. Yet when the process begins to take shape, many brand consultancies and marketing agencies resort to focusing most of their resources on the very things they set out to surpass. Dress it up any way you like, brand image and advertising seems to be the glass ceiling in the pursuit to authenticity.

Not for a second am I questioning the value of consultants and agencies, but if brands are to achieve genuine change; the role of the ‘agency’ needs to change first. The focus must be honed in on developing real consumer experiences before developing polished advertising and image assets to create false expectations - only then will brands and agencies achieve authenticity. Before settling for a market-leading logo, brands, consultancies and agencies need to go head to head with the experience they currently provide for the customers. If the customer experience is poor, the font of the logo won’t be worth the billboard it’s printed on.

Domino’s pizza is a great example of this shift in focus. When Russell Weiner arrived at Domino’s in September 2008 from Pepsi, he had good reason to make dramatic decisions. He arrived on the back of two and half years of negative sales. Pizza-lovers were voting with their feet and their Tweets. The word ‘cardboard’ was becoming an unwanted soundtrack for the brand and the consumers weren’t referring to the packaging!

Russell, the chief marketing officer, didn’t just aim for a brand facelift during this tough time. He dared to look at the customer’s experience and refused to ignore those who said their product tasted bad. It was a painful process for the brand, but a vital one. Under a bold leadership team, they changed their menu, recipe and delivery.

The finishing line of authenticity demanded a journey of vulnerability. And what followed for Domino’s was unrivalled growth and enviable sales. They didn’t cover up a flawed customer experience with a cute logo. They took the road less travelled.

Before anyone starts the ‘new logo’ conversation (anyone remember ‘Consignia?), ensure you’ve examined the very heart of authenticity first - the customer experience.

What did Domino’s do?

- Be real and honest about the product

- Stay authentic to the point of only photographing ‘honest’ images of the product and not manipulating imagery

- Invole the customers early on

- Understand that there are cases where big changes might be necessary, but this shouldn’t be a consistent demand from marketers