The Most Notorious
Buzzword in Branding


Getting Real about Authenticity.

“Authenticity” has been the longstanding buzzword of the branding industry for the past few years now, rising to prominence in the real estate and hospitality spaces during the nebulous time when “Elevated” and “Adventurous” retreated into overplayed obscurity. Some well-meaning projects have even gone so far as to cite the A-word as one of their core principles, satisfied they’ve checked a millennial-pleasing box. But what does authenticity really mean? When it comes to bringing to life a brand that resonates, it’s less about what you say, and more about what you do. Because authenticity isn’t a static “core value”; it’s an active conduit for genuine connection.

Authenticity is action. In the case of Rasa, one of our recent boutique projects in Uptown Oakland, we first sought out the story of the neighborhood. Our project was located at the site of Oakland’s first Art Murmur, a beloved local institution connecting art and the community since 2006. Honoring this past and ongoing legacy, Rasa—whose name references John Locke’s tabula rasa, or blank slate—is not just a celebration of creative expression. It’s an open-ended invitation. Rooted in the past and stoking more creative fires for the future, Rasa is a natural extension of its surroundings, not just painting an Oakland-themed tableau, but sparking local interaction. Not co-opting the social currency of the neighborhood, but refracting its inherent character.

Authenticity is responsibility. If you’re going to be true to your location, show (don’t tell) reverence to its unique context. Rasa is located within Uptown’s Hive District, known for supporting and celebrating makers, whether their craft is coffee, sculpture, or code. How do we connect the dots of this DNA so Rasa feels integral to the area and not simply ornamental? How do you communicate “we are about creativity” without saying a word? You eliminate the barriers between the human touch and the end product. You paint the lettering by hand. You populate the space with various mediums of expression, from handmade wooden shelves and corrugated metal walls to framed local prints.

People are extraordinarily good at sensing all things manufactured; when you get your hands dirty, your brand becomes a seamless expression of its location’s DNA. And authenticity becomes much bigger than a buzzword.

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