Are you in the business of selling fairy tales?
Some of our favourite literature and trashiest TV can reveal some important lessons about the need to be authentic in the way we deal with people in our business and everyday life. While it’s always tempting to portray ourselves as something or someone better than we are, there can be some inherent pitfalls in this approach.
Sadly, I must admit that watching I Wanna Marry Harry has become a guilty pleasure of mine on a Friday night (along with butterscotch schnapps on ice-cream). Really, I only began watching to see how alike “Harry” was to the real McCoy and was curious how much convincing these clueless American girls would need, but it was just too funny/tragic to turn away.
If you actually have a life and don’t watch the show, the premise is to see if a regular guy who looks a lot like Prince Harry can find a girl to love him for his personality, not his status. Kind of a radically bastardised version of Mark Twain’s classic tale The Prince and the Pauper.
As you can imagine, there has been a lot of squealing, misdirection, and fluttering of ridiculously fake eyelashes.
But it got me thinking…
While these girls are being wooed with extravagant dates involving helicopters, hot air balloons and lavish mansions, you just know they’re going to be “totes devo” when they find out their prince is, in fact, a fake. And why shouldn’t they be?
Which got me thinking further…
What would happen if the premise was reversed? Would they be as devastated if they found out a guy who they thought was a pauper (using a fake name, hair colour and back-story) turned out to be a real, bone-fide, ridgey-didge prince?
Probably not. In fact, they’d probably burst into little heart-shaped bubbles of ecstatic joy!
Creating realistic expectations and authentic experiences
So why should one circumstance be so upsetting and the other something considered a dream come true?
Essentially it all comes down to expectations.
When we over-promise and under-deliver, the person on the other end feels they’ve been robbed. And rightly so. We’ve painted a picture and set expectations that can never be realistically obtained. This creates a sense of loss as the sense of expectation is rudely ripped away.
Conversely, when we under-promise and over-deliver, expectations are much lower. The other party only stands to gain from the bargain, rather than lose, so anything above and beyond the expectations initially set feels like a win.
But how can you be noticed against those painting grandiose pictures if you don’t guild the lily a little yourself?
The final word
In the long-term, it comes down to authenticity. When you’re true to yourself, your business, and your customers, you don’t need to live up to a fake persona. Your market will respond to YOU and appreciate your unique approach.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it doesn’t need to be.
Those who know they can depend on consistency and authenticity from you will be your strongest advocates. In turn, they will sing your praises in the face of the flash and dazzle your competitors use to try and win attention. And while some may be suckered in by cheap tricks, authenticity will win hands-down in the long-term.
Which is why I much prefer Roald Dahl’s version of Cinderella. And not just because the prince calls her a dirty slut and threatens to chop off her head (as a 9 year old, I was delighted to receive a book with such scandalous language and inappropriate themes!). It far more accurately represents what real life is like, rather than fuelling the fire of fantasy and false expectations.
Sure, you could call the prince shallow for changing his mind once he found out Cinderella was nought more than a mere filthy scullery maid, but she was the one who magicked herself up to appear as something she wasn’t.
And not being authentic in the way you present yourself is never a smart business decision!
Have you ever been sold the fairy tale only to find the real deal was more of a nightmare? Share your experience below, or join the conversation on Facebook.