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Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want

Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want

4.0 2
by James H. Gilmore, B. Joseph Pine II

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Contrived. Disingenuous. Phony. Inauthentic. Do your customers use any of these words to describe what you sell—or how you sell it? If so, welcome to the club. Inundated by fakes and sophisticated counterfeits, people increasingly see the world in terms of real or fake. They would rather buy something real from someone genuine rather than something fake from


Contrived. Disingenuous. Phony. Inauthentic. Do your customers use any of these words to describe what you sell—or how you sell it? If so, welcome to the club. Inundated by fakes and sophisticated counterfeits, people increasingly see the world in terms of real or fake. They would rather buy something real from someone genuine rather than something fake from some phony. When deciding to buy, consumers judge an offering's (and a company's) authenticity as much as—if not more than—price, quality, and availability. In Authenticity, James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II argue that to trounce rivals companies must grasp, manage, and excel at rendering authenticity. Through examples from a wide array of industries as well as government, nonprofit, education, and religious sectors, the authors show how to manage customers' perception of authenticity by: recognizing how businesses "fake it;" appealing to the five different genres of authenticity; charting how to be "true to self" and what you say you are; and crafting and implementing business strategies for rendering authenticity. The first to explore what authenticity really means for businesses and how companies can approach it both thoughtfully and thoroughly, this book is a must-read for any organization seeking to fulfill consumers' intensifying demand for the real deal.

Editorial Reviews

The Globe and Mail
Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is authenticity. Companies seeking to present an aura of authenticity can come off looking like fakers. And sometimes reality and fake can be so intertwined it's hard to separate them.

. . . people crave genuine and authentic product experiences in a world that is increasingly commercialized and fake.

Publishers Weekly

This eye-opening but muddled volume tells companies to "remain true to self" or, at least, to appear genuine, arguing that "in a world increasingly filled with deliberately and sensationally staged experiences... consumers choose to buy or not buy based on how real they perceive an offering to be." Everything that forms a company's identity-from its name and practices to its product details-affects consumers' perceptions of its authenticity. Juggling philosophical concepts, in-depth case studies and ad slogans, Gilmore and Pine (The Experience Economy) run into trouble with a chapter called "Fake, Fake, It's All Fake," which eviscerates the entire idea of authenticity: "Despite claims of 'real' and 'authentic' in product packaging, nothing from businesses is really authentic. Everything is artificial, manmade, fake." The argument is unexpected and perhaps brilliant-yet rather confusing, since most of Authenticityargues that businesses should strive to not only appear authentic but to be so. The book's bullet points, charts and matrices add to the tangle, as the authors' early advice ("your business offerings must get real") becomes a demand for furrowed-brow soul-searching. Still, the prose is snappy and conversational, and the book is densely packed with insights and provocations, and may inspire some executives to consider how consumers see their company. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In a way, this is a sequel to the authors' 1999 best seller, The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, also building on the premise that people aren't satisfied with commodities anymore-they want an experience (i.e., the entertainment and memories that surround the act of using a product or service). The twist here is the difference between the real and fake experience, and the book provides many examples of what that means and why it matters. This theme is part of a broader movement expressed through books such as Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers.Like Authenticity, these books don't focus on the products or services themselves but on how they are made, discussed, and experienced; the movement is away from products and toward the consumer's imagination and needs. Libraries with the luxury to collect observations about the latest trends should examine such books more closely. Authenticityis a branding book of sorts but from a completely different angle than other books on the topic. It is ideal for business school libraries, especially those with an emphasis on marketing and product development.
—Stephen Turner

Product Details

Harvard Business Review Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

James Gilmore and Joseph Pine are co-founders of Strategic Horizons LLP, a 'thinking studio' that combines the best of consulting firms, think tanks, and acting workshops to help companies design all-new say of adding value to their economic offerings. Together they authored the bestseller, The Experience Economy, and edited Marketing of One and Pine himself wrote Mass Customization.

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Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What do consumers want? According to James Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II, we want products that are genuine: that are what they appear to be and do what they say they will. Such products are increasingly rare in the modern consumer economy. If that was the gist of Authenticity, I would agree, but Gilmore and Pine also seem to say that what consumers want are products that we perceive to be authentic, not products that actually are authentic. Perhaps we consumers have simply learned to see through advertising and marketing gimmicks, to no longer believe the lies about a product's benefits that we would have swallowed in the past. That's good, no? To sort things out, the authors posit a two-part 'Polonius test:' 1' is a business is true to itself and 2' is it true to what it says it is. Using this test, businesses can sort themselves on the continuum from Real/Real to Fake/Fake, and proceed accordingly. But shouldn't we consumers be demanding Real/Real, rather than asking that businesses pull a better quality of wool over our eyes? For a concrete example of the authors' Polonius test at work in today's marketing world, read this book alongside Raymond A. Nadeau's Living Brands 'McGraw- Hill, 2007'. Nadeau, a marketing expert, advocates for, and gives many real-world examples of, Real/Real marketing. Nadeau argues that a new paradigm of collaborative branding is arising, under which consumers will increasingly insist on Real/Real products, creating them ourselves if businesses don't step up. To a large extent, Nadeau offers a solution to the problem Gilmore and Pine outline in Authenticity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿When we say a thing or an event is real,¿ wrote Pulitzer-winning novelist Carol Shields, ¿we honor it. But when a thing is made up ¿ regardless of how true and just it seems ¿ we turn up our noses.¿ In an increasingly manufactured world, though, how can you give customers the genuine article? That¿s the question James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II answer in this comprehensive, polished and entertaining analysis of authenticity. Wandering through such diverse fields as existential philosophy, architectural criticism and even relativistic physics, the authors carefully gather the ingredients of authenticity. The diverse brew they concoct, though in places turbid, is eminently drinkable. We recommend this clever and provocative exploration of authenticity that will continue to ferment in your mind and affect your strategy long after its crisp finish.