FLAWSOME (being authentic & imperfections)

 

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“There’s a beauty in all my imperfections and he’s the one who holds them up for me to see.”

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Crazy/Beautiful

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“Nobody is perfect. Everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies. Some people call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff. “

Robin Williams

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“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

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The Twits <Roald Dahl>

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الجمال لديها الكثير لتفعله مع الطابع

“Beauty has a lot to do with character.”

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Arabic proverb

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Let me begin where I will end … there is beauty in imperfections.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well.

That would imply being authentic is all about being as beautiful as you can be … imperfections and all.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Okay.

That said.

Why the hell don’t brands, companies & marketers not only accept this, but embrace it. We talk about “authentic” and “being human” and, yet, businesses run scared of anything less than being some perfect droid of humanity <you cannot be a droid & human>.

It’s like they want something, but are not willing to accept what they want. Look. We’ve danced around this authentic concept in business for a while. Far too often it reaches some absurd levels of “how can I be authentic” which is … well … weird. You are either authentic or you are not <and you shouldn’t have to be purposeful in doing so>.

I believe the absurdity is centered on the fact businesses have an uncomfortable relationship with authenticity. They talk authentic/human, which means embracing imperfections & flaws, but are scared shitless of anything less than perfection & flaws with ‘customer service’ <or anything for that matter>.

In other words. They seek to be authentically perfect <an oxymoron>.

It is usually here where I pull out the 2012 Trendwatching Flawsome trend where they stated: “brands that behave more humanly, including showing their flaws, will be awesome.”

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While many trends are all about the new, it’s always worth remembering that success in business in the end is more about being aligned with consumer culture than just being aware of ‘new’ techniques and technologies.

While 2011 saw new levels of consumer disgust at too many business’ self-serving and often downright immoral (if not criminal) actions, stories of businesses doing good (Patagonia! Ben & Jerry’s!) remind consumers that personality and profit can be compatible.

In fact, in 2012 consumers won’t expect brands to be flawless; they will even embrace brands that are FLAWSOME*, and at large (or at least somewhat) human. Brands that are honest about their flaws, that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor and dare we say it, some character and humanity.

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I agreed with that trend then and I agree with it now. A Flawsome authenticity should be what every sane business should seek – internally with employees & externally with customers.

But they just can’t seem to get there mentally. Companies want authenticity, they want ‘human’ but don’t want the imperfections.

Brands don’t find imperfections interesting, they find them concerning. Why? Far far too often we use imperfections to point out those things we so flippantly refer to as ‘flaws.’  Here is a thought. Maybe we should refer to imperfections as “beauty marks” and stop being defensive about them.

While I would argue there really is no such thing as perfection for the sake of today’s discussion let’s say there is. I do so with Walt Whitman in mind:

 

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

 

Within the multitudes lies the most interesting imperfection of all … contradiction. More often than not we look upon ourselves as imperfections but something, or more often, some things simply contradict.

 

Our internal thoughts conflict.

Our opinions conflict … with each other as well as with others.

Our actions can contradict <nice at some point & not so nice in a similar situation>.

 

This creates a problem for a business.

In business, perfection, for some odd reason, seems tightly tied to consistency. Some tenuous smooth link between what we desire, what we are, how we act and what we think. And any time this smoothness is rippled in any way … well … somehow imperfection has entered into the equation. And, there you go, that is a bad thing for most business people.

Day after day I remind any company, any brand, any CMO:

 

  • We are large.
  • We contain multitudes.
  • We are human <because business, inherently, are made up of its people>.

 

And within this large multitude there are loud voices, quiet voices and silent voices. All of which speak to us … and for us. All of which use perfect words, use perfectly sensible well intended actions, to perfectly fuck up our smoothness.

Yikes.

All that perfection still creates imperfection.

If you want to be authentic that is the overall thought everyone kind of needs to get their head wrapped around. In the circular world of imperfection, or perfection <because they are actually one and the same simply different sides of the same coin> the most interesting in us, and of us, is always something of a contradiction.

I purposefully used appearance-like quotes to open this thought piece and have purposefully avoided discussing appearance in discussing beauty, perfection & imperfection. I did so not to tritely suggest that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but rather instead to point out beauty is complex & simple and made up of the things you do & don’t do – not external looks & perceptions.

Authentic is complex in its make up of its largeness and multitude.

Authentic is simple because it resides in contradictions.

Even simpler in that it rarely, if ever, resides in some smooth unrippled feature – whether that feature be physical or within character. But maybe that is why imperfections are so difficult for us … as in sense of self … to manage. Contradictions are not easy. Interesting … but not easy. Not always easy to grasp and not easy to understand.  And in our unease we dwell on the imperfect feeling … on what is actually our perfect interesting aspect of who and what we are.

It is a battle, a debate, a whatever, I believe most everyone, most any businesses seeking authenticity, faces in some form or fashion.

 

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“Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and applause of the many, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.”

Longfellow

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Look.

There is always … and I mean ALWAYS beauty in imperfections. It is sometimes not easy for someone to see because it is a contradiction – how can an imperfection be perfect <which equates to beauty>?

And, correspondingly, how can beauty be imperfect?

Well.

All I really know is what I said before – all imperfection has some beauty.

I could also suggest that if you think of character, which is most likely the most important aspect of total beauty in a person <even impacting appearance>, that without some contradictions you will certainly be smooth, consistent & unrippled … and less interesting <boring as a matter of fact>.

And who the hell wants to be an authentically boring business <or person>?

Anyway.

I am done babbling. For what it’s worth <most likely not much>.

I believe contradictions are beautiful. Therefore wherever I see contradictions, within someone or in someone’s appearance, I see beauty. And I can honestly say that if you even want to tie your desire of “authenticity” to storytelling … I can unequivocally tell you that people are attracted to stories with some  tension and resolving some conflict.

There’s a set-up, a conflict, a villain that must be overcome and a resolution with a hero at the end. Using conflict creates the opportunity for a hero, even a flawed one, who can provide a solution <even with its imperfections>.

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“True perfection has to be imperfect, I know that that sounds foolish – but it’s true.”

Oasis

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Here is what I wish businesses would grasp about “authentic.”

 

Authentic is being who you are, not planning how you will be.

Authentic is … well … being Flawsome.

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Written by Bruce