Brand Authenticity – Real or Fake

Recently on a trip to Europe I had the pleasure of hearing a presentation by American author and strategy consultant Joseph Pine on authenticity in branding. Pine has co-authored several books in the brand space. Namely the ‘Experience Economy’ and his more recent offering simply titled ‘Authenticity’.

Luigi Zuckermann sign

Pine believes that people increasingly evaluate the world in terms of real and fake, based on their own views of what is and is not authentic. ‘Real’ is important for many consumers because of the role brands play in confirming their desired or perceived self-image.

But distinguishing between real and fake is not always easy. At a recent brand workshop we were conducting with a regional wine and food group in country Victoria one of the participants, a successful micro-brewery operator, was bemoaning the fact that the very large commercial breweries attempt to position some of their brands as artisan inspired boutique beers. It makes it tough for the ‘real’ artisans when the big commercial brands mimic their boutique cues.

Review Facade

Joseph Pine raised a few axioms that he thinks is relevant to authenticity. Firstly, he believes if you are authentic, then you don’t have to say you’re authentic. Related  to this is it’s easier to be authentic if you don’t say you’re authentic. Secondly, if you say you are authentic, then you better be authentic. Thirdly, and interestingly, he believes it’s easier to render offerings authentic, if you acknowledge they are inauthentic.

Review sign Close Up

Heritage and years since having been established is frequently used as a way of claiming some sense of authenticity. It for this reason the I loved the two retail offerings pictured above, I came across in Berlin. To a large extent they apply Pine’s third axiom and claim their authenticity by poking fun at their years of establishment.

Peter Singline
(Real or Fake….?)


  1. Great post! Love the examples. As a brand consultant myself, I help clients create brand stories particularly for new brand launches. I think you always have to have a kernel of truth to the story you are telling. You can edit out the parts that distract from the story, but it does need to built on a genuine point of view. Thanks for haring.

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