There are many great examples of people who have courageously differentiated themselves and their organizations by taking a stand that is different than the main stream. These companies, the result of ambitious leaders, have chosen to be authentic in their offering, sourcing, and customer experience.
Additionally, as individuals, we have the same potential. When we "Make it Real," we can also stand out in a crowd. The key is to do so in a manner that is ALWAYS true to yourself and relevant to the target audience.
These are three especially great stories that demonstrate the power of Authenticity.
Whole Foods Market
In a business as margin driven and competitive as "supermarkets," it is refreshing to see any company choose a path that is materially different than the rest of the pack. For many years, Whole Foods has perfected its customer led business model to market certified wild fish, organic fruits and vegetables, and deliciously prepared food. Yes, the consumer pays for this premium but the quality of this customer experience makes shopping a real adventure. For example, this innovative retailer uses smaller baskets that are double stacked for ease of maneuvering throughout the store rather than the ever expanding wide-load trolley at normal supermarkets. Whole Foods has chosen a strategy of authenticity and the result is a loyal shopper base and growing financial performance.
As co-host of ABC's Good Morning America, and a legendary sports journalist, Robin Roberts has distinguished herself as a "real" person on display every morning. She brings a bounce to each morning, is open about her love for family and Louisiana, and is a great example of someone who is winning with her own brand of authenticity. Having fought and won her battle with breast cancer, she became a symbol of resilience and strength to all families facing illnesses. Then, Robin found herself in need of a bone marrow transplant due to the effects of her prior cancer treatments. Once again, Robin confronted this with full transparency to her viewing audience. Following successful treatment she returned with even greater strength. Recently, Robin has opened her own heart to share her partner in life. Authentic people are true to themselves and comfortable with who they really are.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Steve Ells, the founder and Chairman of Chipotle, trained as a formal chef in San Francisco, following his studies at the Culinary Institute of America. A gifted chef, he chose to re-invent the Fast Food business by bringing a "Quick Casual" concept to life in Denver, CO., called "Chipotle." His strategic commitment was to serve a few delicious items, prepared in front of the customer, cooked in the restaurant, marketing only food with integrity. His decision to use free range pork, fresh cooked beans and lime flavored rice revolutionized the quick food experience. The Chipotle Mexican Grill authenticity has only strengthened over the years. During a stint, when McDonald's Corporation acquired this growing brand, Ells remained at the helm and leveraged a happy median of scale from the hamburger giant (restaurant site selection, etc.), yet refused to compromise the core equity of brand Chipotle. Today, following a successful IPO, Chipotle continues to standout in the restaurant category, with accomplished leadership and huge growth potential. Authenticity and food with integrity in a very inviting restaurant design is working for Chipotle.
Never underestimate the power of authenticity in your life, business, and overall well being. Rather than follow the crowd, always be true to yourself and blaze a trail that will result in something you can be proud of even if it is the more challenging route to happiness and success.