I believe in authenticity. Not the words. But the thing. I was watching Sinek's 'start with why' talk again the other day. I use it a lot. It's good. It's right. But something about it grates. The smugness? A little. I think it's the example of Apple that grates me. I use Apple and have done for years. Sinek accurately defines their Why. But the problem is they have drifted. They now make things and do things that don't align with their why, with their authenticity. It's not so much the hardware. It's the software. It's the "Eco-system". The fact that I can't upgrade the OS on my iPad 1, the problem I have running new bulky OS software on my original Mac mini. I get that as software develops it leaves old hardware behind. But so fast? Really? I hate android - it's ugly and clumsy - but you can still get support for older versions. Helping keep older devices going.
Then there's the service design. My iPhone 5s is running out of battery in 3 hours. Not good. So I book a "genius" appointment at Regent Street. I was kept waiting over an hour. To be told that the problem was "you use your phone Mark. What we would recommend is deleting everything and using it just as a phone and for email". Yep I'm certain that would help but that isn't what the device is for. So I book a second appointment at Covent Garden. Different again. Good. This appointment was authentic, it aligned with apple's why. The genius was super-quick, not patronising, and highlighted the problem clearly. No need for a new phone just a full factory reset to iron out a software crash issue.
Brands (companies) need a why. But that's not enough. Their why needs to be reflected in everything they do and the way they do. The why circle in Sinek's model is not an island. It's connected to everything a company does. The rise of "authentic branding", story-based branding is welcome but if we are not careful we will see our purpose, our why, as something else to dispose of and re-invent like last year's corporate identity, like the typeface of last month. This is a risk. Authenticity and purpose should run through everything we do like "Blackpool" through a stick of rock.
Branding agencies need to follow suit. I've seen agencies sending out missives to hide the cigarette work when Public Health England visit. If you're proud show it. If you're embarrassed don't do that work. Ironically, brand agencies need to work on their Why. What are they here to do? How should they do it? Be authentic. I'm not saying don't do work for the tobacco industry but if you do, don't hide it.
This drive for authenticity is a curse. I regularly talk to young adults (my kids mates) in old band t-shirts and ask "so you like the Velvet Underground? Cool. Which is you favourite album? How did you think things changed when Nico left?" This is cruel sport but I believe that you can't just wear a brand, you have to have earned it.