Craving authenticity Getting real
“I think we’re collectively rebounding from perfection fatigue. Everyone knows what Photoshop is now. Everyone’s seen the wizard behind the curtain in advertising, in Hollywood. We know how the machine works. And so we’re gravitating toward people, images and experiences that we deem to be authentic, unvarnished and real” Pamela Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images (Jezebel.com, February 24, 2014).
Too many demands, too many stereotypes and too many trends have affected all areas of consumption, leaving little room for carelessness. We are experiencing a reaction against the flamboyance and the arrogance of the previous decade, where everything was retouched, altered, magnified and faked. There is now a great need for more authenticity in the products we buy, the food we eat, even the people we meet. People are tired of being “marketed to” and have become suspicious of advertising messages and brands’ promises that they consider far from the reality of their offer. Moving away from a world that they judge as too artificial, people want to live in a society where connections are human rather than virtual, where products are natural rather than processed, where people openly showcase their imperfections and, where the media broadcasts reality-based messages. We are entering a phase that promotes normality, reality, and naturalness as guarantors of quality and somehow success. The beauty, fashion and food sectors are the main vectors of the trend, as they largely deal with image, appearance and identity.
Going away from a world that they judge as too artificial, people want to live in a society where connections are human rather than virtual, where products are natural rather than processed, where people openly showcase their imperfections and where the media broadcasts reality-based messages.
Consumers and brands alike are going back and granting high value to what is real, natural and casual, both in terms of attitude and appearance.
The media is now presenting reality as it actually is instead of varnishing it, polishing it, and fading it. Attitude-wise, this is evidenced by the success of reality-TV (“Born in the Wild” captures women giving birth in the wild) or talk-shows featuring Mr. and Mrs. Everyone telling their daily hassle, or documentaries filming celebrities’ intimate lifestyles (Beyoncé’s documentary “Life is But a Dream”). Also, comedy TV shows (Girls) successfully paint reality through experiences and social nuances that most people can personally relate to.
According to L’Oréal Beauty Track 2012/13, women’s self-perception varies very much across nationalities. For example, only 25% of Japanese female consumers are satisfied with their physical appearance vs. 37% of the British, 42% of the French, 58% of the Russian and 80% of Indonesian women!
Furthermore, the blogosphere has brought ordinary individuals to the front of the stage: they openly and shamelessly write about their passions and share their biased opinions with a clear and uncensored voice. Appearance-wise, consumers, readers and models themselves are asking for less Photoshop retouching and wish to celebrate imperfections. According to L’Oréal Beauty Track 2012/13, women’s self-perception varies very much across nationalities. For example, only 25% of Japanese female consumers are satisfied with their physical appearance vs. 37% of the British, 42% of the French, 58% of the Russian and 80% of Indonesian women! And the trend is clearly going up, thanks to crowdsourced beauty ambassadors who are spreading the authentic word about every woman to consumers who get inspired by models and celebrities. Female consumers are posting so-called “ugly selfies” on social media and women are going makeup-free for a cause. Since the ‘Real Beauty’ ad campaign in 2004, British skincare brand Dove has led the way in terms of boosting women’s self-esteem and forgoing airbrushed models for ‘normal’ women. Since then, many brands have been keeping up by celebrating the natural physical variations that are embodied by all women and are inspiring them to be more confident and comfortable with themselves.
Natural means quality
Naturalness is today more than ever an important dimension of quality, which has added relevance as discerning shoppers become more educated about the quality and variety of products available. They value and scrutinize what is “genuine” and “natural”, demanding products and services with premium quality ingredients and processes at their core. A natural aspect enhances consumers’ willingness to pay because it involves using pure, “best-of-the-best” ingredients and processes. Also, as a reaction to the highly manipulated and sophisticated cuisine popularized by molecular gastronomy, both chefs and younger consumers are slowly turning to less esoteric, more accessible, ancient cooking methods and basic rustic ingredients. Millennials have started to show renewed interest in back-to-basics cooking. For instance, the Palaeolithic diet – also referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet – is a modern nutritional diet designed to emulate, insofar as possible using modern foods, the diet of wild plants and animals eaten by humans during the Palaeolithic era. Proponents of the diet therefore recommend avoiding any foods that are thought not to have been available to humans at that time, including dairy products, grains, legumes, processed oils, and refined sugar.
In a November 2013 survey by Alix Partners, consumers said that they planned to eat out less in 2014, citing health and finances as their top two reasons for the cutback.
In addition, Americans in general are going to restaurants less frequently and cooking at home more often. In a November 2013 survey by Alix Partners, consumers said that they planned to eat out less in 2014, citing health and finances as their top two reasons for the cutback. Nicole Cliffe, cofounder of blog the Toast, wrote the article “Please Stop Buying Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts,” urging home cooks to purchase a fryer chicken and butcher it at home, or roast a whole bird.
Real Beauty Sketches by Dove
Global beauty brand Dove launched a “Selfie” campaign to mark the 10-year anniversary of the successful “Campaign For Real Beauty”. The brand challenged young women from a U.S. high school and their mums to take a selfie, which they feel represents their own beauty. The portraits were then shown in a gallery, where visitors attached Post-it notes pointing out what made the portrait beautiful. The campaign drew comparisons with Dove’s record-breaking 2013 hit, “Real Beauty Sketches“, which highlights a disparity between how women describe themselves and how they are perceived by other people. The campaign reveals that women really are their own harshest critics and reacts by telling them ‘You’re more beautiful than you think’ and.
United States, January 2014
Intermarché’s media campaign
French supermarket chain Intermarché recently launched a media campaign to celebrate imperfections, not of human bodies but of… fruit and vegetables! A few months earlier, the supermarket branch in the city of Provins had offered ‘ugly’ food products on sale, 30% off the regular selling price. The campaign was initially aimed to accompany the initiative in the region, but the online and media buzz was so strong that it rapidly spread elsewhere. The reason given was wastage avoidance but it was also interpreted as a will to consider those products just the way they are, not trying to embellish their appearance.
France June 2014
In the UK, most famous Cancer Research UK recently generated £8m in donations within just six days because of a campaign that took the social media work by storm and had millions of women (and some men) posting pictures of themselves wearing no makeup and using the hashtag #nomakeupselfie.
United Kingdom, March 2014
BonAppetour – among many others – is an online social platform where a global community of “real” hosts and guests bond over authentic home-cooked food. What’s more, instead of going into a polished and impersonal random hotel, guests get a chance to meet the locals of the place they are visiting and discover authentic cultural specificities. In the meantime, hosts can share their home-cooked dishes, their passion for cooking and their culture with guests.
France, April 2013
French Fashion brand Somewhere is also celebrating imperfections in their latest ad campaign, with the tagline “natural & casual”. According to the brand message, being really oneself without artifice is the true route to inner happiness. In the campaign, young women are standing in the middle of a circle that reads “happiness here”.
France, October 2014
Business & Marketing guidelines
|Adapt to the trends of openness and authenticity and show your customers the real you.|
|Get the company leaders involved in the online discussion by maintaining a Facebook page and a Twitter feed and making appearances on YouTube videos in order to humanize the face of your brand.|
|Listen to your customers — to their needs, their frustrations, their wishes. Don’t forget they are human beings that have their two cents to contribute, so go straight to the source of information and talk to them, share with them, answer their questions and help them address product challenges. These people represent your real customers and their opinions can be representative of a much wider audience.|
|However, overexposure and misuse of the terms “authentic” or “real” (as well as related terms like “artisan”) dilute their meaning and value. Too often it is used as a shortcut to denote higher quality and premium status: a contrived add-on and/or insincere marketing claim.|
- Attitude-wise, the media is now presenting reality, evidenced by the success of reality-TV, talk shows and documentaries filming celebrities in their intimace lives to show what their life is really like.
- According to L’Oréal Beauty Track 2012/13, women’s self-perception varies very much across nationalities. For example, only 25% of Japanese female consumers are satisfied with their physical appearance vs. 37% of the British, 42% of the French, 58% of the Russian and 80% of Indonesian women!
- Appearance-wise, consumers, readers and models alike are asking for less Photoshop retouching and wish to celebrate imperfections.
- Naturalness is an important dimension of quality, which has added relevance because discerning shoppers value and scrutinize what is “real” and “natural”, demanding products and services with premium quality ingredients and processes at their core.
Experts that we recommend
French sociologist, futurist & author of book Nouveau portrait de la France : La société des modes de vie (Aube, 2011)
Co-founders of store chain Nature & Découverte
Innovation and Research director at agency Le Public Système
French politics and ethics philosopher & author of book Éléments pour une éthique de la vulnérabilité. Les hommes, les animaux, la nature (Cerf, 2011)
French historian & author of book Le Sentiment de soi. Histoire de la perception du corps. (xvie – xxe siècle) (Seuil, 2014)