Authenticity: How to Make Customers Choose You Over Your Competitors

Need to stand out amidst all the competition? Be authentic.

 Authenticity, according to The Experience Economy and Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, is a quality highly valued and demanded by today’s consumers. “Authenticity has become the new consumer sensibility—the primary buying criterion by which people choose what to buy and from whom to buy,” says Pine in an interview with Pulse magazine (May 2013).

But in the world of business, what exactly does authenticity mean? How can one render an authentic experience? Pine offers three key ideas about authenticity to help you win over customers and edge out the competition.

1. Authenticity is personally determined.

According to Pine, authenticity means conformance to self-image, where the identity of the offering matches the identity of the individual. “You get to decide for yourself what is authentic to your self,” he says. Given this definition, it has become all the more important to know your customers’ identities. “Because authenticity is personally determined, it cannot possibly appeal to everybody,” Pine explains. “Its identity will only match the identity of a subset of the population, who will, therefore, perceive it as authentic—and that’s who you want as your core customers.”

2. Authenticity cannot becreated, it can only be rendered.

A common misconception is to think that an authentic spa experience can be created. Pine corrects this notion by stating that an authentic spa experience cannot be created, but can only be rendered. “We came to the inevitable conclusion that all economic offerings are fake,” he says. “Yet often, consumers do perceive them as real, and that is why companies must render their offerings to be perceived as authentic.”

A good case study of a company that understands how to render an authentic experience to its core customers is Best Buy. Through its Geek Squad, Best Buy used costuming and props (e.g. Geek Squad badges and Geekmobiles) to turn mundane store interactions into engaging encounters.

3. Baby Boomers are among the market segments that most demand authenticity.

“In terms of demographic segments, Baby Boomers have led the way in their desire for all things authentic,” says Pine, adding that it is important to recognize that all succeeding generations, however you define them, also desire the authentic. “It’s just that their definition of what is and is not authentic differs with their individual identities.”

Ultimately, before you can render authenticity, you need to understand your own brand and core customers. Only then can you successfully be authentic and build a personal and lasting relationship with your clients.