When the authentic 2.0-campaign is just an image



When Stagis still existed in it’s founding city Odense, some six or seven years ago, my colleague Iben and I would joke about ‘old values’ and refer to marmelade from The Old Factory (Den Gamle Fabrik), a Danish brand that has an image of historic authenticity and some sort of naturalness. Back then they stood out in their category by promoting the idea of marmelade as it used to be and a strong connection between the product and the organizational identity and the heritage of the company. So when ever Iben and I was to do a project we would refer to them with a glimpse of irony as we weren’t going to go THAT far to make any client look oldschool but we certainly wanted to bring out whatever the organization of our client had in their core and heritage.

Since then there has been an enormous rise of products and companies that promote the natural (think organic), the local (terroir), old times, the heritage and so forth. Suddenly, The Old Factory doesn’t seem as old nore natural as does many products and companies in their business. And As I was looking at their website the other day it appeared to me that, true enough, this company has a very long history. But what they have on the heritage-dimension they lack when it comes to reflexivity and their ability to bring their authenticity into the web 2.0 thinking which holds great potential to create the sense of locality and nearness; A new campaign invites web-users to participate in a competition with pictures from situations including the Old Factory products. A few users had already uploaded a few pictures of kids eating toast with jam. But the pictures seemed a little bit too nice. Too staged. Too happy. And sure enough – some of them carry the stamp “Getty Images” in the corner. The image of authenticity is staged lacking the roughness, the little mishaps, the scratches on the edges and the charm of a genuine “Kodak moment”.

As Richard Peterson, author of “Country Music, Fabricating Authenticity” notes, ”You have to plow a lot of ground and look at the back side of a mule for a lot of years to sing a country song”, but later turns to discuss with more variety: ”You no longer have to watch the back of the mule, but you have to know the conventions of creating the music in order to be authentic. And the apparel will help”. The Old Factory has a long history of producing jam, but they forgot to use the real “apparel” when they tried to promote the image of authenticity in their web 2.0-venture: The participation of real people and their pictures.