Are you real…or just authentic?

Create viral assets.

Design experiential moments.

Used in one sentence, or better, used as one ask, “I want an authentic experience that will go viral.”

Raise your hand if you have been in a meeting where you have heard something similar.

Hmmm…I thought so…I have too.

These days, we hear a lot about the need for “Authenticity,” the notion that particularly younger audiences can sniff out “Fake” in an instant. And that without “Authenticity,” Brands, people, or whatever cannot be successful.

This conundrum extends to the age of the proliferation of fake news, juxtaposed to the age of digital transparency. Inauthenticity is supposed to be easy to spot in branding, but continues to plague audiences.

The upshot is that we spend time and money creating—no, obsessing—over “Authentic Experiences.” We tell everyone they are authentic, which begs the question: If these experiences are so authentic, shouldn’t it be obvious? Doesn’t authenticity speak for itself?

Seems to me the real issue is that we confuse what’s real with what we hope to closely copy… much like we continue to talk about experiences as if they are creations of our digital age. (More on that topic another time.)

For example, way too many instances of people comparing their real lives to others carefully curated on-line “Authentic” lives, and we have all seen the sad fallout of those not strong or savvy enough to see the difference.

I think it’s time to take real back. To own up to who and what we are. To take accountability for what we say and do. And to demand that same behavior from all around us—people and companies alike.

Do not seek out the Authentic…search for real. Because I’ll bet that real is way easier to spot.


“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”  

Abraham Lincoln

Let me paraphrase: Real is like the tree, and Authenticity like a shadow. The shadow is what we aspire to; the tree is the tree.

What do you think?

Related posts: