Why Brand Authenticity Matters Now More than Ever
Authenticity • Marketing Function
Was Willem Dafoe a Spice Girl? Did Nicholas Cage actually rescue the Ark of the Covenant? Two pressing questions we’re sure you’ll agree. Especially as they highlight the growth of ‘deepfaking’ in today’s society, which in turn can call into question the very nature of reality itself!
What is ‘deepfaking’? Well, the headline is that it involves the use of publicly available (and often free) software to swap faces in videos. No need for expensive Hollywood studios or deep programmer knowledge, which means they’re now appearing everywhere – and further questioning our concept of ‘authenticity’.
What does any of this have to do with brand?
Well, aside from the sheer joy of watching Mr Dafoe play Barack Obama or Michael Jackson, it’s a topic that helps establish a point of view: that authenticity is fast becoming one of your company’s most valuable and fragile assets.
For example over half (59%) of 16-24s are more likely to buy fashion brands they consider authentic.
Authenticity however is an asset that needs to be protected as much as it needs to be inspired. Today, brands live and grow in an open and connected world of online marketplaces, social media, and almost limitless choice. A place where everyone has a voice, making it feel at times like the Wild West!
From doing to stopping
When it comes to building authenticity, our instinct as marketers is to act, to create, and to communicate. That’s because we know from past experience that acting and behaving in the right way is key to building deep consumer trust. In fact, recent research highlights that 59% of consumers are looking for brands that act responsibly.
Yet such activities have a significant limitation: they’re not addressing one of the core factors negatively impacting your brand’s authenticity: bad actors. These come in many shapes and sizes, but each has the potential to fake your brand, to serve up replica websites and products that severely compromise existing customer relationships – and cast doubt on your brand’s authenticity.
The fact is that today brands have a real responsibility to protect themselves and their customers. According to recent research conducted by Incopro, 69% of consumers believe that brands have a responsibility to protect them from fake products or communications.
In fact, 56% of consumers said they would struggle to trust a brand after coming across fake products or communications from them. That’s why it’s important for marketers to add a fifth ‘P’ to their toolbox: Protection.
Minimizing the negative
Protecting a brand is no easy task, especially when you consider the channels and choices open to consumers. Take for example social media, which on the surface is the ideal platform for ‘getting authentic’ and being at your most open. The trouble here is that it also helps simplify the act of impersonation where anybody working under an assumed name, and backed up by freely available images, can slip into the shoes of even the world’s largest brands.
Not that they stop there. Once in place these bad actors can use your brand to attack people, or post views and opinions contrary to what your company stands for. And with the growth of ‘Instashopping’ (blended social media and ecommerce platforms) they can also run fake ads and direct your customers to fake websites in what amounts to a phishing exercise.
That’s why we believe that defending against such malicious activity should, in part at least, fall under the remit of marketing: because by offering such protection you’re also strengthening brand authenticity.
Building up your defenses
The task of identifying and taking down counterfeit products, fake sites, and illegitimate communications does of course sound like a problem for the legal department. Yet the reality today is that in the eyes of the consumer, one bad experience can compromise their entire relationship with a brand – even if you’re eventually proven to be innocent.
Shifting some of this responsibility over to marketing, along with the necessary tools and capabilities, also helps develop a solid platform for improving protection across 3 distinct levels:
- Protection from fake communications that can reduce or compromise your brand’s genuine voice
- Removing the potential for fake products to damage a consumer’s perception of you
- Enforcing your duty of care as a brand to help minimize the risk of fake and potentially dangerous products getting into a customer’s hands
That alone should gain the attention of the brand-conscious marketer.
Summing it all up
Authenticity isn’t something that’s created, rather it’s a brand treasure that requires careful protection. Doing that today however is as much about minimizing a consumer’s experience of the negative, as it is about promoting the positive. Particularly when trust and authenticity play such a key role in any purchase decision.
Combined, these factors help highlight the critical need for a fifth ‘P’ in marketing. Keeping it real matters – wouldn’t you agree Mr Dafoe?
THE 5TH P OF MARKETING – CONSUMER RESEARCH REPORT
Download the consumer research report to learn how to build and protect your brand’s authenticity online. Inside, you’ll find:
- Key research insights – what brand authenticity means to consumers
- A step-by-step guide to building brand authenticity
- A list of tools you’ll need to protect your brand’s authenticity
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