Authenticity and Gift Cards


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Authenticity is becoming one of the buzzwords for 2008. It’s the antidote to distrust, being disingenuous, hype and other distortion that are aimed at gaining undue influence or can I say it—a sale.
Why is authenticity especially valued by customers these days? Could it be that customers are realizing that there really is no free lunch, that material freebies usually come at a cost—and, the cost surfaces in their experience.
Now here is a gesture that is enormously popular. Give someone a Starbucks gift card. It took Starbucks 3 years to sell the first $1 billion dollars worth. Last year alone, gift card sales exceed a billion dollars.
Where’s the authenticity? First, it is a small gesture that doesn’t weigh heavily on the I-owe-you ledger. Second, it is an offer of a small personal indulgence, that is, for the other person’s pleasure or experience. And, third, there is a tendency to remember the giver when ever it is used.
Humm.’ I wonder where businesses could go with this.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


  1. Authenticity is a victim of commercialism, John, not a product of it. I simply cannot understand your justification of giving a Starbucks gift voucher as an authentic act. It wouldn’t impress me. If you want to be authentic give me something you’ve made. It’s hard to be authentic when the meaning of the gift is determined by a commercial vendor, particularly one which is so uniformly delivered globally. Francis Buttle

  2. Hi Francis,

    In general, I agree with you that commercialism reduces authenticity. That’s one reason consumers have so little trust in companies and their marketing. And, that is one of the reasons companies are trying to be authentic. Companies like Patagonia make authenticity pay-off.

    As for giving a Starbucks gift card, it is the gesture not the card that is authentic. By giving the card the giver hopes the other person gets a brief moment of enjoyment and an emotional lift. Now, you might find a Starbucks gift card to be an inappropriate gift. That’s your judgment call.

    Making something to give is nice and it would be authentic. But so is a real Picasso authentic.

    Here’s a question for you. Is there anyway that a company like Starbucks be authentic?


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.


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