Want to be authentic? Live up to the expectations!

This post was first published on How Cool Brands Stay Hot.

From our authenticity research project I have described earlier on this blog we concluded that Gen Y’s realness perception of a person or thing is strongly initiated by their upfront expectations. Let’s take a closer look at what we mean with these “expectations”. For instance, for a youngster the main purpose of school, besides meeting their peers, is learning something. Our research showed that this is exactly what Millennials expect from their teachers. Authentic teachers are the ones they feel they really learn from.

Authentic coaches
Let’s take it outside school and take a look at when, exactly, our respondents perceive other adult professionals like in youth movement groups or sport clubs as authentic. Again expectations are the drivers of their perception. If Gen Yers want to become champions, a ‘real’ coach has to be a professional and experienced athlete keeping the necessary distance, and sharing both knowledge and passion. If instead they expect to merely have a great time, the role of their coach needs to be different. Authentic coaches will then behave more like their own friends, which means they share stories and experiences from a much more equal and closer point of view.

Service with a smile
When looking at expectations in retail, research by Alicia Grandey from 2004 has shown that a true authentic, friendly smile of store employees does have an added value… but only as long as the service is fast and ok. Again we recognize the importance of expectations. Clients don’t want to wait at hotel check-in desks and in the supermarket we all expect a swift service as well. Since the perception of authenticity is so in line with expectations, it is of course crucial to understand what your audience expects from you or your brand?

Personal touch
Are you living up to those expectations? If so, then a personal authentic touch (for instance based on your own unique style or identity) can bring in added value, but again as long as the basic expectations of your target group are fulfilled.

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