A Question of Authenticity and Designer Sunglasses

December 4, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Branding

A friend passed on a post by Mind Hacks the other day all about the consequences of faking it. The post cites a recent behavioral study that was conducted to see how giving someone something deemed “fake” affects their behavior, honesty and sense of ethics. Interesting, right?

In the study, the participants were given either real or “fake” designer sunglasses. In truth, NONE of the sunglasses were fake.  They were ALL real. Participants were then monitored during a series of tests and questioned to see if there were any noticeable behavioral differences between the group with the real glasses and the one’s wearing the “fake” set.

Question: Would the mere implication of being inauthentic change participants’ views and behavior?

Answer: Yes. Overwhelmingly.

The participants who were told they were wearing fake sunglasses were more likely to cheat on the tests and be more suspicious than those who were told they were wearing designer glasses. The study showed that wearing the ‘fake’ sunglasses increased personal feelings of being inauthentic for the participants, leading to measurable negative effects in their behavior and a strong change in attitude. It also showed that once someone was dishonest, they became more and more dishonest as the test went on. [Or, for the ladies, “once a cheater, always a cheater”.]

Now, imagine we’re not talking about inauthentic sunglasses. Imagine we’re talking about inauthentic brands and the reactions that customers have to them.  Do you really think it’s any different?

It’s not. Brands who give off a feeling of being inauthentic transfer that feeling right over to their customers.  Instead of “something real” they offer counterfeit interactions which taint the experience and alter how consumers see them in the future.   It affects customer loyalty and their perception of your company.

Make a consumer feel as though you faked an interaction and turn all future interactions suspect.  Cheaters rarely change their stripes just like Zappos would never send you fake shoes. Your brand is the feeling consumers associate with your company.  Don’t fake it.

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