Last week I talked a bit about experience marketing. At the end of the post I linked to a video of a talk given by economist Joseph Pine. In Pine’s talk he briefly articulates a transformation from an agrarian economy to what we now know as an “experience economy”. Pine tells us that goods and services have become commodities, and experiences have become the growing consumer demand. It’s the same reason that so many people will pay $4.00 for a cup of coffee – the experience of connecting with a trusted brand is important to them.
Pine then tells us that not all experiences are equally sought after, the dominant experience within the consumer conscious is authenticity.
…authenticity is therefore becoming the new consumer sensibility — the buying criteria by which consumers are choosing who are they going to buy from, and what they’re going to buy.
Authenticity is responsible for fueling the independent music and art industries. It’s the reason that original concepts, that would have been written off as foolish 10 years ago, are changing the way we communicate. And it’s the same reason why Google has grown in popularity over its competitors.
But Pine then fills us in on a little secret: There’s no such thing as true authenticity. This is because every experience is created by external stimuli and thus our experiences are only as authentic as they are rendered to be. In the end it is the illusion of authenticity that drives consumers to engage. To quote Rae Hoffman, “Good spam never looks like spam.”
As marketers and business owners it is our job to render authenticity. If we fail at doing so, we will lose the consumer’s trust and risk being “fake”!
OK, so what’s your point Joe?
Last week, Google announced a gamut of changes that they will start to implement. The most significant of these changes is default personalized search. Around the same time, Google’s CEO made some pretty alarming comments regarding privacy concerns. In short, Google now collects all sorts of data about its users and then customizes its search results and other services to reflect each users unique behavior. It collects the user’s location, the web sites that they have visited, and various other pieces of data. All of this is done with relatively no consent from the user and without notifying them. It is clear that Google’s mission statement that now reads “…organize the world’s information…” should read “…exploit the world’s information…”.
All of these changes reflect a continuing trend at Google to create a highly sophisticated personalized platform that not only produces the best results but also the best ads. This disregard of user privacy completely goes against the feel good, do good image that Google has worked hard to create. As a result Google is killing its rendered version of authenticity.
Pine gives us three tips to staying authentic:
One, don’t say you’re authentic unless you really are authentic. Two, it’s easier to be authentic if you don’t say you’re authentic. And three, if you say you’re authentic, you better be authentic.
A large part of being authentic is staying true to yourself. Which is why classifieds giant Craigslist is fighting eBay with everything they have to retain a majority of seats on their own board. For them, running the company they founded the way they always have, is that important to them. Which is the same line of thought that ultimately lost Jerry Yang his job as the CEO of Yahoo. Yang refused to sell out in the beginning to Microsoft because he believed in his company, he believed in staying true to his ideals.
At the end of the day it won’t matter who has the better search engine. If Google loses the trust of its users and cannot retain authenticity, Bing, will be more than happy to step up to the challenge of earning that trust and building its own brand of authenticity.