A Lesson in Authentic Consumer Experiences

A Lesson in Authentic Consumer Experiences

A Lesson in Authentic Consumer Experiences 800 534 Chute Gerdeman

When we think about authenticity, we consider how a brand communicates to consumers. Are they genuine? Are they transparent? But, consumers expect their experiences in the physical realm, as well as digital, to be authentic. Don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

In 2008 we applauded men’s fashion brand John Varvatos for taking over the once thriving (but then defunct) New York music club CBGB, and making a truly unique retail experience. Embracing the original history of the space, John Varvatos fused a fashion story with the richness of rock and roll, a natural pairing for the brand whose known for it’s edgy vibe.

Instead of stripping away the visual sentiments that were long left behind, the gritty, raw elements were preserved with graffiti, stickers, posters and band fliers decorating the walls. The original bar now served as a checkout, and the tiered stage that rock gods once stood, now showcased Varvatos’ signature collection of shoes. Vintage vinyl records available for sampling and purchase, and the shop hosts live rock music nights to feature up-in-coming artists. The only thing that felt like it was missing was the club-y smell of cigarettes and beer (we’ll say thanks for that).

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But when this concept started to make its way cross-country, from Vegas to Toronto and soon-to-launch Detroit, it lost something along the way… authenticity. While some elements in the new locations are sourced from Paris flea markets and include rare photographic prints, it’s just not the same. You can’t replicate an environment that has history that dates back decades.

But does it really matter? Yes! In fact, authenticity is one of the top factors of importance for where consumers choose to spend their time and money. So how do you keep it real?

Understand consumers define authenticity differently. Consider the fact that age, gender, and ethnicity all have influences. Imagine an 16-year old today visiting John Varvatos CBGB, they’d likely have a different reaction than someone in their 40’s or 50’s with a much more connected past to what that store represents.

Don’t forget regional relevance. Yes, today’s consumers are more traveled than ever before, and if they don’t even step foot out the front door the online access allows them to cross borders like never before. There are things that don’t always relate, however, as they cross the threshold of cities, states and countries. Consider the difference between a NY native to a Toronto bred consumer and how they might experience CBGB differently. One might expect a stronger connection with the New York native who grew up hearing about the nostalgic stories that made this local hotspot such a cultural moment.

Takeaway: Don’t think you can pass one over on your customers. It’s time to get real, be who you are, and understand your audience.

Photo Credit: John Varvatos

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