Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Myth of Authenticity Or The Story Behind Products

See a BusinessWeek article called The Myth of Authenticity. Here is a brief description of it:

"What do brands like Häagen Dazs, Baileys Original Irish Cream, Bombay Sapphire and Kerrygold all have in common? Each stretches the myth behind the brand to promote heritage and authenticity."

Some other exerpts are below. We use myths to find meaning in life. Since much of our activity in life is economic, it should not be surprising that myths would crop up there. It seems that people will pay extra if a product has a good story or myth behind it. That is a pretty amazing link between economics and mythology: myths are profitable.

"Working the link between place of origin and product quality is the oldest trick in the brand book. It milks our thirst for mythology and plays mercilessly on our superstitious hope that special places have the power to revitalise and transform."


[some]"...brands that mingle fact and fiction in an imaginative fusion of make-believe and authenticity."


"Baileys Original Irish Cream is a classic example of a brand that climbs high on the back of a provenance blending fact with fiction. Launched in 1974, Baileys is the world's top selling liqueur brand. In each and every country, the idea that sells Baileys is its Irishness. "It's hugely important," says Baileys' external affairs director Peter O'Connor. "We could produce Baileys more cheaply in New Zealand or Australia, but whenever we've researched the idea consumers say 'over my dead body.' " But is Baileys Irish?

So far as the ingredients go, Baileys is what it says: Irish. The production site is Irish, the farms supplying the milk are Irish; the cows, ”all 40,000 of them,” are Irish. But the Celtic motifs on the label surely hint at a more ancient past than Baileys can legitimately lay claim to in its thirty-plus years of business. Then there is the brand's identity: a flowing handwritten signature, R.A. Bailey, underlined with a flourish, as if to scupper any doubts about the author's existence. There is also the name itself -- incredibly Irish, without being clichéd. But, as Olins reveals in his book, Baileys is an impostor. Its identity is a sham, a colorful invention cooked up by a multinational drinks group, in a London office overlooking the Bailey hotel. And the signature? "There's no Mr or Mrs Bailey," admits O'Connor. "We wanted a name that was Irish, but not "show" Irish. The R.A. Bailey was a way of putting a name behind the factory, a way of getting across that the product comes from Ireland."

So how did a cheapskate identity theft give birth to a branding triumph? O'Connor puts it down to the drink's taste and wholesome ingredients. "The product has a lot of authenticity." But Baileys' success isn't just down to taste. Like many brands that conquer the world, "R.A. Bailey" is self-made, dreamed up to fill a gap in the market, in this case for a spirit that would appeal to younger consumers, particularly women. Inventing a product category gave Baileys the freedom to create the image it wanted, without reference to established rivals. "Positioning a brand as a modern classic is a tricky thing to pull off," says Peter Matthews, managing director of brand experience consultancy Nucleus. "When it works, it's usually when the category didn't exist before, where there are no benchmarks that the entrant can be measured against.""

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