Authenticity Redux

Has the commercialisation of hipster culture and the proliferation of dubiously labelled ‘artisan’ products had a knock on effect of devaluing the attempts of established brands to use years earnt authentic[1] claims?

Artisan, bespoke, boutique and authentic are much used advertising words right now. What was once an outlier description technique is now considered mainstream. For many legacy brands this is now presenting a marketing problem. How do you promote a brand with decades long earned authentic creds when every brand in your category is using the same lexicon?

We think it’s as much about what you say about what you make as what you say about who you are. In other words, we believe it’s as important to promote your companies purpose as it is to talk about the features of a product.

63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic[2]


9 out of 10 consumers are willing to take action to reward a brand for its authenticity[3]


73% of people care about the company, not just the product when they’re making purchasing decisions[4]

The good thing for those of us creating advertising messaging is an engaged consumer in 2017 is primed to hear a good story. We are seeing people swing away from what Chris Anderson/Wired Magazine[5] in 2005 called the ‘shorter, faster, smaller’ Information Revolution into what The Reuters Institute[6] amongst others have highlighted this year as the trend for long form content. Seen in the form of podcasts, real world and online in-depth investigations and documentaries in the cinema.

We have recently been working with Nyetimber, sparkling wine producers based in Sussex. It was clear from our very first meetings that the organisation had a very precise way of going about things. It became obvious to us that the reason their wines won so many plaudits was every single aspect of their business was focused on an incredible attention to detail. This wasn’t about following a categories tradition but striving for the very best come what may. Cherie Spriggs the head winemaker has been given the freedom and resources to create extraordinary wines, for instance proof points extended way beyond the product right down to the specification of the door hinges used in the winery. These are great engaging product tales driven by a clear brand purpose.

This is also mirrored in the growing appetite for nonfiction, with data from Nielsen BookScan[7] revealing that adult nonfiction made the biggest gains among the major print categories in the US last year.

A brands authentic story is no longer reserved just for a glossy 5 minute feel good film at the shareholders meeting. Rather consumers are seeking daily reminders, especially contextual to their own lives of how a brand behaves. Interestingly the definition of ‘authentic’ has shifted from ‘social’ and ‘environmental’ responsibility in 2014 to ‘high quality’ and ‘delivering on promises’[8] in 2017.

So now more than ever it’s really important to move beyond generic claims of artisan endevours and exposure the truth of a brands purpose and drive.

We see a number of trends coming together that will enable brands with a true story and great product to be able to create engaging, profitable narratives.

Long form[9]. Well crafted, superbly executed content[10]


Fragmentation[11]. Personalised, contextual, niche targeting[12]


Transparency[13]. The advantage of clarity and delivery of brand promise[14]



[1] adjective ‘of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine’.

[2] Cohn & Wolfe ‘Authentic Brands’ global study 2016


[4] “Engagement with a Purpose – the Power of B Corporations” 2015 BBMG /

[5] ‘Small is the new Big’

[6] Reuters Institute/Nic Newman; Journalism, Media predictions 2017

[7] Adult nonfiction stayed hot in 2016', Publishers Weekly (January 2017)

[8] Cohn & Wolfe ‘Authentic Brands’  2016 analysis by Paul Holmes for The Holmes Report

[9] Canvas8 : From branded magazines to Netflix binge culture, the joy of immersive content. 2017.

[10] 'Why brand storytelling should be the foundation of a growth strategy', Marketing Week (February 2016)

[11] Fragmentation versus convergence. Nielsen Media Trends 2016

[12] Marketing

[13]  Emerging trends. Empathetic Brands 2017

[14] Fuzzy Promises. Definitions of brand promise. Thomas Boysen Anker, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow. 2014