Thursday, April 26, 2012

Authenticity Part 1

I recently watched the movie Chocolat (2000).  A few days later I watched a TED Talks on the topic of "What Consumers Want".  I felt that these two viewing experiences tied together.

In the TED Talk, author Joseph Pine explains why consumers value authenticity.  He states that we want genuine experiences, not drive thru or big-box, megastore type experiences. I agree.  For example, when I think about trips I have taken and the meals consumed during those trips, some are considerably more memorable than others.  I recall eateries that are off the beaten path; the local places with distinctive dishes and original decor.  I consider activities such as hiking through a forest or playing in the ocean waves authentic experiences.  Events that have me completely immersed in the moment and surroundings.  I want to drink in the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds.

How does Joseph Pine's theory on authenticity relate to a film set in a constrained French village during the year 1959? If you have not seen it, a brief overview:  Vianne (the lovely Juliette Binoche) breezes in to a small community with her daughter and opens a shop.  Vianne is an expert chocolatier.  Coincidentally, the season is Lent and the townspeople are counseled to avoid tempting confections.  Vianne is not disheartened.  She believes in herself. We observe her warmth and morale radiating to and influencing the villagers.  They begin to trust her.  Vianne does not judge them or expect certain behavior.  They confide in her.  They gain confidence and begin to see their true selves.  Not surprisingly, her chocolaterie becomes successful. This film relates to the TED Talks because Vianne provides an authentic experience through her shop.  She is true to her heritage - we learn that her mother was also a chocolatier.  Vianne is true to herself by doing (making) what she loves.  The happiness which comes from it radiates to those around her.  It is even reflected in the colorful clothing she wears.  She does not try and conform to the town. (Vianne's daughter asks why she does not wear black shoes like all of the other mothers.) She invites passers by to come in and experience the chocolaterie; providing them a friendly, non-judging, inviting place that has customers returning.  Why do they return? They enjoyed the memorable, genuine, authentic experience.