Questioning Authenticity as Marketing Tool
I, of course, believe what I tell myself and therefore think that authenticity is cornerstone of developing a brand (and being a person, for that matter), but I have doubts too.
That's right, I'm not so naive as to believe everything I believe with the same level of certainty. I'd make a shitty president.
At any rate, after writing about authenticity and superlative marketing messages, I thought about a curious tag line I read on a billboard a month ago while biking down a highway in the Columbia Valley in British Columbia. The billboard was for a new property development and it read:
rent the lifestyle . . .
Wow. This is a marketing campaign about aspiration. I can't afford to buy the lifestyle, but I can afford to rent it for two weeks in July!
"Lifestyle" is a big trigger for me. As a gay man, there are few things I find more irritating than having my existence referred to as a lifestyle or lifestyle choice. Shopping at Banana Republic and driving a Jetta are lifestyle choices. Being a homo is just sort of the way things are - sure I can accessorize (avec Jetta & smart chinos from the Banana) but I can't make a different choice when I'm tired of the current offerings.
All that said, a vacation property definitely falls into a lifestyle choice for me. The question is, does it make it any less authentically my lifestyle if I rent it vs. own it? Is it a question of having a lifestyle instead of using one? If the net result is two weeks at a vacation getaway and the experience is identical save for ownership -is there a difference? I'm inclined to think it doesn't matter. After all, the owner and the renter both end up with the same access to biking trails, quaint art stores and mediocre restaurants, no?
Of course, all this leads to a discussion of target market and key messages and the inevitable: how do we reach them?, and we come full circle with idea that there are people who want to getaway for a few weeks without the investment in one property and, hey, why don't we offer the chance to rent. The messages get developed and tested, tweaked and refined and someone offers up that this isn't just a vacation spot, it isn't just about a getaway or about making just one choice. No, this one billboard (and accompanying marketing strategy, I'm sure) is about escalating this choice into a defining moment of lifestyle. The cabin, the bike trails, the arts stores and the bad restaurants are a part of something bigger!
And so, my chosen profession poses consumption questions on the same playing field as those things that are core to one's self, those innate an unchangeable things about you that affect the path of your life.
Authentically speaking, I don't like their pitch (ad in the bottom right corner). I'll take my business to the charming Windermere Creek B&B with the old log cabin and the chance to get away from turning my vacation into a lifestyle.
Clearly I'm not the only one asking this question . . . just Google "authenticity" and "lifestyle" and have a read . . .
(Notwithstanding the bad restaurant comment, I must give a shout out to a fabulous restaurant in Invermere called Portabella - fantastic little spot with an inspired menu that's brilliantly realized. Thanks to Scott & Astrid at Windermere Creek for the recommendation!)