5th February 2015

Intimacy is the new authenticity.

What in hell does that mean?

Well, look around you. In almost every realm of culture, we are being assaulted by authenticity warriors. This is true from brands, from politicians, from organisations, and from a hotel I stayed in last week in which ‘the manager’ wrote me a hand-written card welcoming me personally to her hotel. I mean blotted-ink-personal, not the printed faux-handwriting kind.

I had never met this manager before, nor had I ever crossed the threshold of her hotel. And her nightly charge for a room was authentically outrageous.

Almost everything the collective marketing community takes to en masse turns to cabbage. Messy, bland cabbage.

It is the way of the world I suspect. Somehow, the great avant garde idea of the early 2000s – Authenticity – feels like a Happy Smile in the McDonald’s of Nightvale: superficially charming, but slightly queasy.

This is not to say that authenticity itself has lost its meaning. Well, of course not. It’s just that every damned brand is now affecting authenticity – the marketing equivalent of the teaching paradox: when everyone is a winner, no one has won.

The authenticity rot began with Innocent Smoothies – a cutsie UK brand which broke through with its folksy tonality which, at the time, had some disarming charm. A brand that spoke just like you and me. And then suddenly everyone was doing it. And then suddenly Innocent sold out to Coca Cola. And then, suddenly, all the cutsie was merely the affectation of cute – a corporate wink, rather than charm itself.

Brand Coke has the balls to be big and act it. It seems Innocent, caught in a corner of its own making, is destined to shadow box inauthentically with authenticity for some time to come.

Enter intimacy. Let’s love it while it’s still pure.

Intimacy is simply the idea that we, as human beings, listen best to metaphorical whispers. Whispers into our ears only.

Intimacy in our personal lives surely approaches the most sacred space of human experience. It is predicated on invitation. Intimacy happens when both parties agree, not when one party asserts.

Let me take, by way of example, one of my favourite media movements of the last ten years: the rise of the podcast. Podcasting’s 20% per anum growth is deeply connected to the intimacy of this mobile medium. In following my favourite shows, I establish personal relationships with show presenters. I know their philosophies, their sticking points, their ticks, their charms. I know this because some have been in my ears for more than five years. Podcast shows accompany me in my most private moments: in the car, walking the Howth cliff walk, and indeed as I nod off to sleep.

Intimacy is a tender, chosen, one-on-one relationship. It is the feeling of greeting, and being greeted by, the maitre d’ as an old friend, or getting the handshake of the barman as you enter your local – and warmly returning the moment.

As a small business, I work with many individuals on a piecemeal basis over the years, writing them cheques as I go in payment for their services. I recently met one girl with whom I worked many years back. She was great, and it was nice to see her.

‘I always loved the way every time you sent me a cheque, you put in a note that simply said ‘Thanks’ ‘.

In marketing, sometimes we have to learn to do methodically what we as people would ordinarily do automatically.

And there, it seems, is the not so intimate rub.
© 2015. Brian McIntyre.

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  • Alexander says:

    Dear Brian, as you know in marketing we create and follow trends, hypes. We collectively make waves. It’s our mirror neurons just doing their work in our brains. Some start, others follow. Small waves, sometimes big waves. After the big wave of Greed & Growth we now are all riding the wave of Purpose, Authenticity & Sustainability. I think it is a beautiful wave, better than Greed & Growth. I see a new wave coming, the wave of Happiness. Brian, which waves do you see coming? Cheers from your friend in Amsterdam

    • Thanks Alex. Well, who’s to know for sure, of course! However, we should have an informed point of view. I see sustainability as certainly growing bigger and bigger. With it, pleasure will decay and the result may indeed be happiness 🙂

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