On (in)authenticity

I pride myself on my own inauthenticity. All my role models --Machiavelli, Hitchcock, Dylan, Bunuel -- are artists of the inauthentic, of inventing one's inner life, of not being quite who we appear to be. Unfortunately, however, it's not a great time to be a peddler of the inauthentic. Indeed, while Wikipedia has a long entry on authenticity, there is no entry at all on "inauthenticity".

That's because, in the murketing age, personal authenticity sells. As I argued in my post on Arianna, what elevates the individual Huffington brand is its mastery of appearing authentic. Like Blair, Obama and Oprah, the spiritual Arianna has mastered the priceless ability to appear as if she has an inner core -- otherwise known as a "soul". To be a really viable politician or business executive, you need to demonstrate that you possess this inner core, an essential identity. That's why so many of our commercial and political elites embrace religion. It's increasingly hard to be a successful leader these days without being able to demonstrate that you have a soul.

This message is repeated by the FT's Stefan Stern today in a piece entitled "A Brand New Me." Stern writes about the new industry of "personal brand management" and goes for his own brand evaluation to personal-brand consultant Louise Mowbray. According to Stern, Mowbray, who runs a London based consultancy called "Mowbray by Design", is a popular lady:

Her services are in demand from bankers, lawyers and other business people, all pondering ways to improve how they are perceived at work she says: “How can you make yourself compelling to your target audience? Can you establish a personal brand that is well-known, consistent and authentic?”

Yes, authenticity sells. Here is Mowbray's take on personal-brand building:

The premise of building, developing and managing our brands in authenticity. There is no point in attempting to be something that we are not. It will not sit well and it certainly won't be believable.

So the professional service Mowbray offers is helping us discover who we are so that we can wrap our personal brands around this identity. What was once accomplished at the confessional or on the psycho-analysts' couch is now taking place in the offices of the personal-brand consultant. I wonder how this priestess of the digital age would go about curing me of my own affection for the inauthentic.