The dynamic business environment in all industries across the globe implies that marketing has to be aggressive. Therefore, advertisement practices that allude to the consumer needs are required as part of the conventional approach to consumer engagement. Modern consumers are obsessed with authenticity, and every advert has to reflect authenticity, to be considered for purchase by consumers. Mass production of consumer goods and getting to the desired level of authenticity require comprehensive input in advertising in terms of time and finances. Adverts draw the attention of consumers towards the products and should, therefore, be construed to reflect not only the culture of the consumers, but also the assurance of authenticity imparted through product use. The present paper explores the portrayal of authenticity in body use product adverts and how such adverts create a link between the consumers’ cultures and perceived authenticity.
Advertisement, Authenticity, and Culture
Advertisers of consumer products in the market today focus on their capacity to offer an authentic sense of individuality with each purchase of their commodities. Consumption is regarded as a means of fulfilling individual needs as a well as a communication strategy. Consumers have to communicate their uniqueness and sense of identity to others within and outside their social circles. Accomplishing this can be a challenge in an environment where social constructions and mass production have rendered autonomy difficult to achieve. According to Heath and Porter (2006), the bourgeoisie constantly experience a contrast between their social experiences and their desire for authenticity in a cultural space. The conflicts between corporate and social power promises result in challenges in the definition of uniqueness and authenticity. When a concept is described as authentic, it takes a relatively short time for it to be adopted and transformed within a social class, making it popular (Heath & Potter, 2006). In this way, concepts lose their sense of authenticity. The constant desire for autonomy and authenticity also drives the construction of adverts for different products. Advertisers focus on ensuring that the product is viewed as unique or the outcome of consuming it is characterized as authentic (Miller, 2015). Experiences of consumers should be perceived as authentic and definitive of both the social class and the perceptions of others about those who use the advertised products.
Various adverts use different approaches to portray authenticity. Ads are developed in line with the cultural values of particular target market populations (Klein, 2002). In each advert, the message ought to portray authenticity through unification of the unique attributes associated with the target market group. The pictures links in the appendix show somebody-use-product adverts adapted from various print media. Figure 1 was adapted from Elle Magazine, whereas, Figure 2 was also adopted from a print magazine. The third and fourth adverts, whose links are also part of the appendix, were obtained from YouTube and include an advert for Garnier oil beauty moisturizer lotion and L’Oreal Paris Commercial hair care range. Each of these adverts reflects the authenticity of the consumers in different ways, both as a communication strategy and as a means of fulfilling a need.
In a bid to create a sense of authenticity, there are different approaches used in advertising to accomplish goal, some of which are evident in the adverts presented below. The images used in adverts can help disseminate promises of realism, self-identity, and individual authenticity (Hermeking, 2005). Such promises are developed distinct from the commodity relations linked to the products being advertised. In the advert for Giovanni Eco-Chic shampoo, the advertiser promises the consumer that they can benefit from the natural ingredients of the shampoo and it is good for dry and damaged hair. Dry and damaged hair can diminish the feelings of self-confidence and destroy self-esteem, especially for women. There are many other shampoos in the market, most of which claim to be made entirely from natural products.
To provide a sense of authenticity to their shampoo, Giovanni characterizes it as made of natural products. This product, based on its ad, satisfies the two needs of consumption. The first is that it addresses a utilitarian perspective of the shampoo, which is a solution to dry and damaged hair. Secondly, it is a way of communication in that the value propositions given by Giovanni in their product imply that it has a relatively high price compared to other conventional shampoos. The consumers would thus feel distinguished from the users of other shampoos not only through the impact of the product on their hair but also through the product’s social perception.
The shampoo advert combines a sense of reality through its claims concerning dry and damaged hair, and authenticity through its focus on natural products. According to Heath & Potter (2006), body care products are in most cases considered to be authentic when associated with specific natural products or ingredients. Through the product, Giovanni markets authenticity of place as well as the authenticity of the product to ensure that the customers perceive themselves as different mainly because their consumption sets them apart from others.
In an advert of Nutriganics skin care products, the advertiser uses slogans, color, and imagery to demonstrate the connection between culture, consumption, and authenticity. The concept of organic consumption is one of the present day fads that are spreading across the world. Environmentally conscious individuals are taking up active organic consumption due to its stand on environmental protection. This serves as a strategy for distinction between companies both in the food industry and in the cosmetics industry. Organic consumption goes hand in hand with fair trade practices, which help companies to earn premiums for their roles in enhancing non-discriminative workplace practices (Du, Bartels, Reinders,& Sen, 2017). Through such pursuits, companies can gain additional premiums from equally conscientious consumers. The organic and fair-trade concerns can be considered part of the contemporary consumer culture and also an aspect of production and marketing that imparts the sense of authenticity to the product.
In the Nutriganics advert, the advertiser claims that the product functions as other anti- aging proteins. This claim not only provides a value proposition to the customer but also affirms the authenticity of the product. By contrasting the organic nature of the product with the conventional anti-aging products, the advertiser manages to clarify the distinctive features. For consumers, this clarification creates a sense of authenticity due to the product’s alignment with specific social groups. The consumers fortify their beliefs and attitudes concerning organic production and trade after using the Nutriganics. Klein (2002) reported that consumers seek authenticity as a result of their cultural connectedness. While cultural context makes it difficult to ascertain an individualized sense of self, it helps to capitalize upon actual experiences of using the high-value product within fragmented communities. Advertisers such as those marketing Nutriganics offer consumer compensation in terms of the distinguishing features of the products. For instance, Nutriganics provides a sense of authenticity through asserting that by using a natural product for anti-aging, the consumers acquire unique and rejuvenating experience that significantly varies from that of conventional products.
Consumption also serves as a form of non-verbal communication which is used for the enhancement of human creativity (Storey, 2014). Commodities such as the body use products shown in the four adverts are considered as effective for thought inspiration among consumers. The concept of organic consumption may not be common across the globe. However, the social associations linked to the Nutriganics product can encourage consumers to purchase organic products. This brings about the concept of conspicuous consumption. Such consumption is described as that which draws social differentiation lines. The differences between social classes based on what they stand for constitutes a certain cultural distinction. Furthermore, the consumption practice itself is considered a somewhat universal process. L’Oreal Paris Total Repair 5 shampoo advert from YouTube also reflects this kind of universality in consumption. As much as consumers seek authenticity, they are constantly aware that commodities target specific markets that maybe of more or less universal scope. An existing value system for classification of persons and events makes it more plausible to categorize consumers based on their needs and the commodities’ target markets. In the L’Oreal Paris Total Repair 5 shampoo advertisement, the main target market comprises of Indian consumers who desire long, full, and healthy hair. This target market is not only for communications purposes, but also a form of authentic acculturation of consumers.
Consumption is purposely for communication, social differentiation, and effectively for culture creation. While the distinctions in product characteristics are universal and are economically driven, these distinctions take a cultural form (Lazovic, 2012). Consumers understand the cultures associated with the commodities as part of the drivers for authentic mass consumption, rather than a cause for social distinction. Nonetheless, Goldman and Papson (1996) posited that the cultural consumption patterns help in securing social distinctions as well as making, marking, and maintaining differences in the social structures. Social powers gained are thus a result of the reproduction of cultural spaces through consumption trends. For commodities to assist in accomplishing this end, authenticity is achieved through cultural contradiction and inclusion of the elements of corporate capitalism in adverts. Garnier oil beauty moisturizer lotion is another example of how adverts reflect cultural contradictions for product distinction. Signs of authenticity, including the identity of the product and consumer, the personhood, and the self, are paramount elements in advertising, and the Garnier advert reflects these and more through the depiction of the lotion’s impacts on the skin.
Marketing can be challenging due to the changing attitudes of consumers and commodity users. In the contemporary times, most consumers seek to achieve authenticity through their association with products that not only reflect their cultures, but also give them a sense of identity. To accomplish the consumers’ needs, adverts promise sustainable benefits to clients. Product and consumer authenticity are achieved in advertisement through the use of different elements including the advert items, slogans, and the claims made. Even the ingredients of product can be a source of authentic distinction for consumers. The adverts reviewed in this paper portray some of the attributes that contribute to the perception of authenticity in a product’s design and use.
Du, S., Bartels, J., Reinders, M., Sen, S. (2017). Organic consumption behavior: A social identification perspective. Food Quality and Preference, 62, 190- 198. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0950329317301684
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Hermeking, M. (2005). Culture and internet consumption: Contributions from cross-cultural marketing and advertising research. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(1), 192- 216. Retrieved from academic.oup.com/jcmc/article/11/1/192/4616663
Heath, J. & Potter, A. (2006). The rebel sell: How the counterculture became consumer culture. Chichester: Capstone.
Klein, N. (2002). No logo. Picador Reading Group.
Lazovic, V. (2012). Content analysis of advertisements in different cultures. English Language Overseas Perspectives and Enquiries, 9(6). Retrieved from revije.ff.uni-lj.si/elope/article/view/3211
Miller, F.M. (2015).Ad authenticity: an alternative explanation of advertising’s effect on established brand attitudes. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising,36(2), 177- 194. doi: 10.1080/10641734.2015.1023871
Storey, J. (2014). From popular culture to everyday life. London: Routledge.
Figure 1: Giovanni shampoo
Figure 2: Nutriganics skin care
Garnier Oil Beauty Moisturizer Advert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMykQrBCMn0
L’Oreal Paris Commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8xKUdl-3GI