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Authenticity over Plastic Perfection

October 17, 2023 | Letters

Authors: Nicole Olynk Widmar, Interim Department Head and Professor, Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics, and Erin Robinson, Marketing Manager, Center for Food and Agricultural Business

As we scroll through social media and see curated “highlight reels” from the lives of our acquaintances, it’s easy to overlook the imperfections that linger beneath the surface of their perfect lives. Do we find ourselves comparing or momentarily feeling inadequate? Sure. Claiming otherwise is like saying your attempt at that perfect selfie wasn’t followed by twenty retakes and a blur filter.

Flawless lives are about as real as Barbie’s resume – endless careers, no bad hair days, and a dream house that defies all logic. Let’s be real: no one is out there living their best life every day. The mixed feelings about Barbie reflect reality: some love her, some vandalize her, and the rest of us are just eye-rolling in between. After all, she’s just a molded piece of plastic trying to be every girl’s idol and best friend. Come on, get over yourself; no one can be that perfect, and frankly, no one wants you to be.

People aren’t perfect, and brands aren’t either

There is little upside to perfectionism, both for individuals and brands. Fixating on the fear of making mistakes, disappointing others, or adhering to unrealistically high standards often leads to negative consequences. Fixation on perfection can lead to covering up mistakes instead of acknowledging them, apologizing, and doing better in the future. There’s a reason you feel unsettled and skeptical when something is “too perfect.” You know it’s not perfect, so the appearance of perfection makes you (rightfully) worried that you may have yet to uncover the flaw. Even worse, if there’s a flaw that’s so important to hide, then it must be a really bad one, right?

What makes you distinct (cringe and all) is most likely our greatest asset. Figuring that out is key to building authentic connections. Everyone is not your target audience. Revealing your strengths (and embracing your weaknesses) is an important step in truly connecting with your best customers.

Now, let’s draw a marketing lesson from this summer’s biggest movie, “Barbie.” With over $1.4 billion in gross ticket sales and its global success, the movie stands as a testament to the potential of a well-crafted marketing strategy – one that reshapes stereotypes of Barbie after six decades. The key takeaway? Authenticity is paramount, even if it means a little reinvention.

Stop trying to be everything to everyone

You might think that anyone who expresses interest in your brand is someone you should target, but this will lead you to waisting time and resources on empty leads. When you attempt to be everything to everybody, you end up being someone you’re not (and might not even be proud of). In the end, you lose connections and become hard to understand.

If genuine connections are what you’re after, embrace your originality, own the cringe, and just be yourself. Because, in the end, that authenticity is the superpower that sets you apart.