Increasing Importance of Authenticity in Today’s Connected World!
By the idstats team.
In today’s world, given the rhetoric around #fakenews abounds, the need for ‘authentic’ and ‘genuine’ communication by brands is becoming increasingly critical. With leading brands using social media as a tool for communication, they often come across as Machiavellian or transgressing the boundaries of authenticity, earning the wrath of the masses.
Thus, when Desigual, a leading fashion brand from Barcelona, decided to launch a new communication on Mother’s Day, which featuring a young woman hoping to get pregnant by poking holes into a pack of condoms, it created a polemic on the internet.
While some found the advert humorous, others rejected it as not only manipulative but also one that sought to trivialize the danger of ‘Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ as well as the ongoing protests in the country against prevailing abortion laws. Pro-choice activists were fighting for more liberal rights for women over their bodies.
The Desigual advert was true to the brand positioning, but the communication was rejected for its flippancy and promotion of ‘Machiavellian’ behaviour. Soon after the controversy broke, Desigual apologized for it via its blog and released an edited version of the advert as well (the piercing of condom part was edited).
“If your content isn’t driving conversation, you’re doing it wrong.” – Dan Roth
On the other end of the spectrum is the viral ‘Open Your Mind’ advert by Heineken. (Click here to watch the full advertisement). In the advert, strangers with different worldviews were asked to complete a social experiment replete with icebreakers and DIY tasks and a chance to talk over a beer (Heineken).
The two partners who were tagged as a team had no idea about the social, economic or political realities of each other. They were just asked to be in a team and to create something. The consumer/viewer is introduced to these realities at the onset, and that sets the tone of the advert where one is anticipating what happens when people with diverging views are made to work
together in a closed space
At the end of the experiment the true reality of each partner was revealed and they were given the option to leave or continue dialogue over a Heineken. In all cases, keeping their differences aside, the partners struck conversation over the beer, giving the consumers/ viewers hope that constructive conversations are possible despite differences if we decide to open our world.
The tremendous success of the advertisement lies in the ability of the narrative to be relevant to the ‘dominant cultural dialogue of strife stemming from diversity’, while paying authentic homage to key prevailing ‘cultural issues’ like feminism, climate change and sexual orientation. The narrative depended on a fusion of many signs and cultural cues to highlight that while these issues in most cases are larger than self, they can be resolved when individuals with diverse opinions and backgrounds decide to have a dialogue.
The advert stood apart for its ‘authenticity’, which was communicated by the relatable protagonists, their reactions and the basic settings without the trappings of artifice or a moderator.
So what worked for Heineken and not for Desigual? The answer perhaps lies in the treatment of the subject and the brand’s perception of their target audience. Heineken only attempted to bring people close over a beer through a social experiment. It focused on the first step of conflict resolution – conversation. Constructive conversation. That’s it. They did not attempt to solve problems between people, races or nationalities through the sale of their beer. Heineken focused on a range of specific societal issues. Most importantly, Heineken did not preach. It leaves it to the viewer and protagonist to charter their path to resolve differences if they want. They only promise a good milieu if you want – with their beer.
Desigual on the other hand showcased protagonist who came across as a Machiavellian and unconcerned about the ethics and violations of her actions. Thus both communications were rejected instantly and swiftly.
Brands are not the answer to the real world problems of real people. And it would be a sin if they presume they are. Brands are reflective of their target audience and their aspirations. And they can be assured of their consumer loyalty by staying relevant and humane. Brands cannot take precedence over humanity. An aerated drink cannot solve deep racial divide but it can certainly become a common point of interest for two people from different race. This in turn means that there is a need to understand and manage the explicit and implicit signs which the human brain process intuitively across brand communication. This is the key to ensure that the brand continues to resonate and enjoy equity with its consumers.