John Furgurson has a insightful post on the Brand Insight Blog on being an authentic brand. I like how John works to clarify why authenticity is so important and such a challenge. John comments,
I think the general public believes that marketing — by definition— is not authentic. Guilty until proven innocent! And if someone sniffs even a hint of corporate BS they’ll blog about it, post negative reviews and announce it to all 7,694 Facebook Friends.
Being authentic means staying focused and saying no once in a while. The more you diversify, extend your product line or tackle new target audiences, the better chance you have of alienating people. In a down economy it’s always tempting for small businesses to branch out. You take on projects that are beyond your core competencies, because you can. People trust you. Then if things go south you lose some credibility. And without credibility there can be little authenticity.
One of my favorite examples of authenticity comes from the burrito chain Chipolte. Right from the start of the company, Chipotle’s focus was on creating the best, freshest product possible. They even went as far as to design their restaurants so that all the fresh food was easily visible to the customer and made the kitchen in plain site so there was no mystery behind how the meat was cooked.
As the company continued to grow, so did the commitment to building as fresh a burrito as possible. Here is a summary time line of the company’s efforts:
- October 2000
- Chipotle begins serving naturally raised pork.
- June 2002
- Chipotle opens first green building at Brodie Lane & 290 W in Austin, Texas.
- October 2002
- Chipotle begins serving naturally raised chicken at a few locations.
- August 2003
- Chipotle opens in New York, and all meats served there are naturally raised.
- January 2004
- Chipotle begins serving about 10% organically grown black and pinto beans.
- March 2004
- Chipotle opens second green building at 8th & Congress in Austin, Texas.
- October 2004
- Chipotle converts to frying oil with 0 trans fatty acids long before it became an industry standard.
- January 2005
- Chipotle increases its percentage of organically grown black and pinto beans to about 15%.
- Chipotle implements plastic and glass recycling in 70 restaurants.
- January 2006
- Chipotle serves 20% organically grown black and pinto beans.
- August 2006
- California Avocado Commission endorses the avocado sustainability program developed by Chipotle.
- January 2007
- Chipotle increases its percentage of organically grown black and pinto beans to about 25%.
- January 2007
- Smithfield, the country’s largest pork producer, announces the gradual elimination of sow stalls, credits Chipotle as inspiration.
- July 2007
- Chipotle begins serving sour cream free of the synthetic growth hormone rBGH.
- June 2008
- Chipotle begins to purchase some of its produce from local farms.
Food With Integrity is what Chipotle’s calls it.
I call it a consistent commitment to being authentic.