Is Authenticity Overrated?

You haven’t even read the blog and you feel compelled to argue, right?

Authenticity is something I have come to mandate as a staple within my operation at Cressey Sports Performance. Not even a week ago I published a series of social media posts celebrating the value of authentic personalities populating your training team. The initial Tweet read:

If your employees aren’t having fun, how do you expect your clients to enjoy the training experience? Make sure your coaches know you want/need them to be every bit as ridiculous in the gym as they are when they grab drinks together after work. Authenticity drives retention.

People didn’t disagree. In fact, when I moved the content over to Instagram, the material generated engagement that exceeded 94% of the 500+ posts I have published to date. People are fired up about authenticity.

I’m active on Twitter & Instagram if you’re interested….

I’m active on Twitter & Instagram if you’re interested….

So why all the talk about overrating this concept?

My buddy Zach recently attended a digital marketing conference featuring a keynote by Seth Godin. He and I share similar taste in books, podcasts, and the local sandwich shop in our home town, so I knew his takeaways would bring immediate value. He returned with pages of notes, including a quote that he felt compelled to share on social media.

When asked about the constant balancing act of integrating authenticity and creativity into one’s content creation strategy, Seth caught a few people, Zack included, by surprise with his response:

“Authenticity is dramatically overrated. We don’t want authenticity. We want consistency. If Nike opened a hotel we’d know what it would be like. If Hyatt opened a shoe line we’d have no idea what it would be like because Hyatt is mediocre.”

I felt like a complete hypocrite after initially reading this quote. I’d recently gone on record preaching authenticity to fellow gym owners, yet was nodding my head in approval of Godin’s message. What gives?

Upon further reflection, I came to realize one very important thing…

When Seth Godin delivers a keynote to roughly a thousand professionals at a digital marketing summit, he does so under the impression that everyone in the room is involved in an operation that is looking to scale well beyond a single location in a service-based field. His intention was likely not to make a blanket statement that applies to 100% of business owners who may be processing his message.

Screen-grabbed this right off of Zack’s FB page  without  permission, because I’m a thief like that…

Screen-grabbed this right off of Zack’s FB page without permission, because I’m a thief like that…

So, I continue to believe that authenticity on the training floor of your gym is everything as you seek success in your operation. We don’t need to argue about that.

This being said, I’m sure more than a few of you would jump at the opportunity to add a second or third gym location to your revenue-generating arsenal, making this message immensely important to your long-term planning.

You see, there is a point of diminishing returns on authenticity in relation to consistency as you begin to operate multiple fitness locations. Somewhere along the line you’ll realize that clients know better than to think you will be able to repeatedly duplicate the sense of humor of your Director of Coaching at your flagship location, and instead just want to know that you’ve systemized the business in a way that allows their experience to look and feel like that which they’ve come to expect walking in.

After all, no one ever talks about the predictably quirky personalities they encounter when approaching the register at a Chipotle, but they for damn sure will tell you that they expect their burrito to taste the same from one franchise location to the next. In the case of these larger operations that we look up to for business development wisdom, consistency trumps authenticity 9 times out of 10.

I’m not telling you to abandon your current approach, but I am telling you that fiercely gripping on to it until the end of time may very well be unsustainable in conjunction with your growth objectives.

So, yes…sometimes authenticity is overrated. Don’t @ me.


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