Humbled Doesn't Mean That

2 March 2014

“Authentically” Wrong: More Abuse of the A-Word

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Hardcore Word Lover…

The other day I saw a billboard for a food company. I don’t remember the brand or the product (total ad fail), but I do remember the tagline: “Real Authentic Taste.” And I immediately thought, what the hell does that mean?

First of all, the tagline is redundant, since “authentic” already means “real,” proving that the marketer doesn’t really know what “authentic” means.

More significantly, “authentic taste” simply means that what your tongue is sensing isn’t imaginary (as opposed to a “fake taste”). That’s good to know — I’d hate to have delusional tastebuds — but that description still doesn’t mean a good thing. What we need to know is, authentic taste of what? Roasted roaches? Parboiled shoe linings? Used kitty litter reduction on a bed of fermented hairballs?

When it comes to describing sensations, the word “authentic” should be modifying some other modifier, like “authentic Italian taste” or “authentic garlic taste.” Then we know what’s hitting our tongues.

Well, almost.

Even with those specific modifiers in place, we’re still NOT saying the food is really Italian or uses real garlic. It could come from a North Korean chemical lab, and the marketer could still make those claims. “Hey, we didn’t say it was real garlic — we just said it tasted like real garlic.”

“Real Authentic Taste”? Really meaningless tagline.

To find the original brand behind the billboard, I Googled “real authentic taste,” and sadly discovered that several companies were using it. Apparently, incomprehension is epidemic.

Wristwatch Description Needs a Time Out…

TokyoBay VoyageNow here’s a sentence describing a NEW wristwatch:

“The Voyage watch has the authentic look of a true antique watch.”

Think about that pretentious slice of nothingness for a second. The words “authentic” and “true” have no purpose here other than to make the company sound like it’s full of used kitty litter reduction.

What exactly is an “authentic look”? What I’d love to see is a “fake look” — that would rock.

Also, if a new watch looks like an antique, wouldn’t that make it a fake antique?

What a waste of words. They could simply write, “The Voyage watch looks antique…” And even that wouldn’t be necessary — the customer can see that for themselves.

Of course, just using words without meaning is anything but “authentic.”


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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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