Brands are now integrated into all aspects of society, and consumers demand them to be more responsible. Yet, in a world full of social media fads and bandwagon philanthropy, how can brands really be considered authentic? I recently joined a ThinkLA panel on Brand Authenticity, and here are some of the key takeaways from our discussion:

Align Your Purpose

As we know from the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study, nearly two-thirds of consumers buy on belief, making a tremendous case for brands to tie purpose into their marketing campaigns. However, audiences are savvier and more skeptical than ever, and if consumers perceive a message to be inauthentic, they will challenge and potentially boycott the brand. To ensure authenticity, brands should integrate a purpose that instinctively aligns with their product, mission or foundational story, and this purpose should be integrated across multiple touchpoints.

Speak Their Language

Typically, brands have more than one audience, and to connect with each may require a slightly different voice across different platforms. To be relevant and play into the weekly, daily and hourly trends on social media, a brand has to be nimble and willing to take chances. Edelman and Samsung’s timely response during the launch of the GS8 is a brilliant example. Samsung asked owners to share their first picture with the phone. A troll wrote, “It was a dick pic.” In response, Samsung sent a single emoji: the microscope. The timely, on par humor won over the troll and the internet, garnering more than 72,000 retweets.

Leverage Authentic Voices to Drive ROI

Influencers allow brands to cut through the noise online and integrate key messages directly into the content audiences are seeking out. This direct-to-target-audience relationship is extremely valuable; however, in the era of fake news, it is more important than ever to ensure you select not only voices with reach, but voices of authority. The most trusted sources for information are experts and peers—your ideal influencer partners will capitalize on being seen as both (a peer and an expert in their vertical). This co-created content should not live and die in a silo—all influencer content should be amplified and optimized across owned, earned, and paid. Influencer assets may also be used for A/B testing to determine which messages resonate most with key audiences. And new audiences may now be retargeted with brand-led promotions.

Virtual Influencers Deliver Real Value

Virtual influencers, such as LiL Miquela, are on the rise. While initially shocking, this is not a new trend if you consider Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald. Further, brands are already effectively working with virtual influencers. A successful partnership is found by following the same vetting system you would with a live person: ensure they have the necessary traits you are looking for (e.g., target audience demographic; expertise in the vertical you are looking to align with; tone; style), as well as some key attributes that align with your broader purpose (e.g., women’s empowerment, inspirational content). In addition, you still must relay campaign goals and co-create content to ensure the messaging is authentic to both the influencer and the brand.