Authenticity – Brands, fakes, spin and the lust for real life

Authenticity is very often something brands strive to communicate and people look for in brands. But what is authenticity, and how can we decide what is ‘authentic’?

In this book Boyle looks at various reasons for the yearning for authenticity, and what this means for business and brand. One of the key points he raises is authenticity in the sense of something being rooted, something that people might feel they can trust. In an increasingly digital, and virtual, world the desire for something to be ‘real’ is a powerful one.

Boyle includes comment from various business-owners whose brands might be considered authentic.

Some of the key insights come from Anita Roddick (Body Shop) who talks about how business is being redefined in a way that the human spirit is coming more into play.


He outlines a grouping of people he terms the New Realists, who are searching for something more to business and life. The search for authenticity brings other themes into consideration, such as ethics, the ‘real’, trust.

Boyle proposes that authenticity doesn’t simply mean ‘reliving the past’ but that ‘The most authentic isn’t necessarily the most true to the past; it could be the most creative or the most human.’ However, in relation to brand and business there is a key issue regarding authenticity, which is that businesses simply aren’t ‘real’ themselves, they are ‘legal fictions clawing their way to some kind of reality.’

People will always be searching for connection, whether that be with other people or brands. In fact, we could argue that in connecting with a certain brand what people are actually yearning for is to connect with other people via the brand.


Boyle presents some insightful comment on authenticity, and anyone working with brand would do well to read this book. However, he does reach a point where he questions whether ‘business as it’s currently constituted can deliver anything authentic at all; I suspect it can’t.’ We might consider whether the problem of authenticity lies with brand or the way business is done at the moment.

Boyle, D. (2004), Authenticity – Brands, fakes, spin and the lust for real life, London: Harper Perrenial.

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