Brand Authenticity: Advocates for Change or just Adding to the Noise?

It’s 2018 and youth audiences are more socially and politically aware than they ever have been – and a whole lot more vocal about it too. Gone are the days when organisations could just promote their brand or campaign using some nice visuals and an engaging copyline. Now they must find new ways to fight for attention and spark meaningful conversations with their audiences.

By Lizzie de Jong

One of the most popular methods of conveying brand authenticity is by partnering with charities or ‘good cause’ organisations to comment on an important social issue. Some brands even go one step further and create their own initiative to show their support for a cause or message that matters to them.

However, this doesn’t always go to plan, and if misjudged, can have a detrimental impact on the brand in question. Here are some do’s and don’ts to think about.


Actually care about the issue

Choose a cause or social issue that aligns with the values and ethos of the brand. People can spot a disingenuous message a mile off, so for a campaign be be successful and get people talking for all the right reasons, it needs to be clear that the organisation really cares about the issue.  

Think about the audience

When partnering with a charity, brands need to ensure the cause will resonate with their target audience.  A great example is Lloyds Bank’s #GetTheInsideOut campaign which focused on non-visible disabilities and included a range of celebrities trying to ‘guess’ which mental health condition another was describing. The advert has received widespread praise for encouraging people to open up about mental health difficulties and has since won Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising Award.

Apologise when you get it wrong

It is only natural that occasionally brands will get it wrong and when they do, it is unlikely they will be able to brush it under the carpet unnoticed. If a campaign does manage to ‘miss the mark’ – a phrase which seems to have been coined by Dove over the years – admitting when you’re wrong is the best way of getting your audience back on side.


Trivalise the message

A classic example here is the 2017 Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner. The ad showed the reality star and model joining protesters to campaign for world peace and unity. The ad received significant criticism from both the media and the general public who branded the ad insensitive and accused the company of trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement. However, that being said, Pepsi’s profits increased that quarter, which adds fuel to the argument of ‘all publicity is good publicity’.

Choose an irrelevant influencer

Following on from the above point, brands often suffer when facts come to light about their celebrity influencer that contradicts their brand message. By choosing a famous face that openly supports the issue, brands will be sure to come across more authentic.

Do it for the sake of it

Last but not least, there’s nothing worse than brands jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of it. Authenticity is shouting about the causes that truly matter to your brand or organisation, and keeping quiet when they don’t.

For more insight, take a look at our other blogs here.