I was reading about the Mexican Artist Frieda Kahlo on the web today - on the excellent PBS site.
Kahlo is famous for her glaring self portraits - she never flinched from showing herself with her monobrow and lip hair. There is something profoundly honest about her work.
It got me thinking about authenticity. What we choose to project of ourselves into the world. Think about your reaction when a camera is pointed in your direction or how you might respond when you meet someone for the first time. We put on our best smile. We try to make a good impression, right? Because first impressions count. Our culturally conditioned respnse is to put aside our true feelings. In my case I fight a fight or flight response when I'm confronted with a camera lens. I 'know' the camera can't capture my soul, but I'm not keen on taking more chances than necessary.
Unfortunately when the first impression we attempt to transmit is false then every interaction from that point on is going to induce a neurotic anxiety about being exposed as a sociopathic phony.
Think about how many brands you interact with that suffer from wasteful first impressions. Let's assume an ad is a first impression. It represent the brand through its products and services.
Take bank advertising as a case in point.
Banks spend a small fortune on projecting an image of themselves that is caring and engaged in your community.
ANZ have been here in New Zealand since 1840 and so understand New Zealanders better AND they give their employees days off to do good works in the community.
BNZ see things the same way you do - Your little fishing skiff is a gin palace in your mind (and with a hefty loan from BNZ could be yours).
Westpac co-opt a sort of simplistic Charlie Brown cartoon style that suggest that everything about money is simplified at Westpac.
Here's the rub. Banks, more than any other brands are motivated by financial imperatives (usurery) and like Shylock in The Merchant of Venice will have their pound of flesh. Most banks drop the pretence after the initial impressions are made. Once contracts are signed and collateral assigned. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone complain about the lax and inefficient service of their bank, or the scandalous fees charged for micoscopic benefits - well, let's just say I'd have a tidy sum on deposit.
Most people don't readily change banks because the return for their effort would usually negligible. The differences between bank brands are neglible. The associated costs and penalties soon eliminate any maginal percentage on deposits. And everyone knows that interest rates are matched in an instant by all banks - so why bother.
The advertising for banks is so utterly redundant in establishing any authentic connection with real people that if you're convinced to choose or change banks based on any image the bank projects, then you deserve all post purchase dissonance (buyers remorse) you will inevitably experience.
Perhaps if banks reduced the amount of money they spend on mind numbingly irrelevant promotion and returned the savings to lower fees and more tellers on the job at busy times -or passing on the savings of lower costs associated with electronic transactions...better still - why not nationalise them? Eject the money lenders from the temple? (I'm infused with the revolutionary spirit of Kahlo).
Here's my guide to choosing a bank.
Do you like Yellow? - Choose ASB
Do you like Red? - Westpac
Blue - BNZ
Light Blue - ANZ
Green - Kiwibank
Have I missed anyone?
First impressions count, to be sure. As part of the decision making process. But let's get real. I would rather know up-front that you are hard-nosed, sensitive, ego centric or altruistic...The cost of faking it is too great - imagine embarking on a relationship that seems perfect and loving only to find later that your lover, who has become your wife/husband and mother/father of your children is a pathological maniac (oops, that's 30% of all marriages...).
We need to reconcile ourselves to the simple fact that we won't have 'chemistry' with most people. Wasting time and money and every other form of energy faking it is utterly pointless. Pleasing behaviour is a form of neurosis. Don't engage in it.
And never let the 'facts' get in the way of the truth - we can usually modify our 'data' to match any given scenario - Chicken Little surmised that the sky was falling becasue an acorn fell on his head. If, say,you owned a music shop selling vintage guitars and amplifiers to middle aged men revisiting their interest in the blues (after their pathological wives have divorced them), and you see that the youth market is growing quickly. Attractive? Maybe. But how much shoehorning will you have to do to convince a snotty little punk (in the proper noun sense) to buy from you, rather than the store staffed by other snotty punks? You could; but the energy it would take would be soul destroying and your real customers, who already need a little love and attention, will not enjoy the neglect that is sure to follow as you make a fool of yourself.
Your truth is what you know to be true in your gut. Stupidity and greed? Leave it to the banks.