Impact of Fake News on Brands

The rise of fake news

Until just a few years ago, the traditional way of news and information consumption was heavily reliant on journalists and news channels. Now when people are asked ‘where do you for your news’, the answer is quite different- Facebook has become a source for news and information. We get updated on the latest happenings via Facebook posts or from other social media channels. The crux of most social media channels is user generated content. Most brands and people create enticing content for social and aim to get seen by collecting the maximum number of likes and shares on their posts. In order to do so, posters/brands may use unethical techniques to make that content exciting so that their campaigns go viral. Many times, creators take the support of not so authentic or somewhat fake news to gain popularity acting as click bait for easy profits. This practice has led to more and more sources on the web to become fake news sources. Compared to mainstream news, fakery is difficult to decipher in origin as well as intent.

We also notice satirical content on the web causing both laughter and confusion. The information overload era has now turned into an information missoverload era. We bend towards popular content that is being shared in our networks and we believe it- simply because it is pushed towards us. Thanks to the power of machine learning and Facebook news feed algorithms!

We have entered a new world of democracy where anyone can post anything on the web giving rise to the bloggers. Brands take the support of their popularity to spread brand awareness and even generate sales. What started off as an innocent mutually beneficial relationship slowly turned into a monetary mechanism. In the era where consumer starts and ends their purchase cycle by reading reviews and peer generated content, brands realised the potential to sell through influencers leading to unethical promotions or somewhat fake advertising practices.

How does fake news affect the brand and customer experience?

The Internet has disrupted the media industry and we lie in a strange place where there is a constant dilemma of what to believe and what not to believe.

Audiences now are more alert than before to this kind of indigenous PR opportunity and consumers of these brands have started cringing at extreme promotional advertising that may not come across as real. In such cases, the new era of customers might shun the brand or even start negative campaigns against them expressing that the brand is not telling the truth in advertising. Millennials in particular desire to be real, unique and appreciate real brand experiences. They want relationships based on consistency and honesty. Once a customer becomes suspicious of the brand’s messaging, this fake messaging could impact the authenticity and credibility of brands. In other words, authenticity is more than a one-dimensional attribute. It has psychological and subjective value.

From a customer journey and reputation standpoint, it is important for brands to identify and distinguish real and fake news. Such influencing factors directly impact customers journey to locate, consider and purchase products and services.

To combat the fake news circuit brands must:

  1. Create reliable and honest content true to their brand values.
  2. Build relationships over time, do not only rely on one blogger or thought leader to promote the brand.
  3. Keep an eye out for similar websites and URL- some websites have really dodgy and unique names, be sure to check the content on such websites before advertising on them in any form. Some others may also have similar URL’s to legitimate sources such mimicking, which is a legitimate news source.
  4. Constant monitoring by brands- Brands must ensure that they monitor their coverage regularly to keep a tab on fake sources. Tools such as Meltwater can help detect a crises situation in advance.
  5. Turn on your detective mode! Before considering any partnership, look for evidence. Who has the source worked with in the past, does the headline make claims that are not supported within the article and so on.
  6. Harvest media contacts database to ID influencers who can spread your message and correlate the correct story to the right audience.
  7. Facebook’s new ranking algorithms can help. The integration of fact checking into Facebook’s publication platforms will help identify and reduce misleading and spammy posts in the news feed. This move also depicts the value of authentic content in order to maintain brand credibility.
  8. Give customers the power to curate their authenticity alongside the brand. E.g. the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ advertising campaign, which is an attempt by the brand to accurately represent and engage their customers.

10 Takeaways from Adtech, New Delhi, 2017

An event that is known to bring together media, technology, marketing professionals and brands under one roof. This extensive event saw the participation of over 6000 attendees and brought out a mix of new ideas, creative thinking, and marketing strategies for the new age marketer. Be it seasoned or a new entrepreneur or a budding professional these new ideas and technologies are monumental for proactively driving the business to the next level. The Meltwater participated in this epic two-day interaction and here are a few important lessons we learnt at the event.

  1. ‘On the go’ is the future

Various sessions focused on mobile, which is justifiable with the advent of 4G along with other digital initiatives by the Indian government being focused towards Internet and mobility. One of the sessions depicted 42% of India’s mobile phone users prefer local languages that indicate a demand for vernacular content on social, websites and apps to drive traffic and engagement. Another session also focused on monetizing mobile traffic to generate revenue for your apps and mobile business, which is a very relevant topic in the current scenario.

  1. Programmatic marketing and advertising are taking over by storm.

Targeting the right customer is becoming hugely important as programmatic advertising gains popularity. Relevancy and customer retention have become buzzwords for the ‘On Demand’ consumer who expects contextual and insight driven engagement. With the growing reliance on technology for media transactions, all digital media channels are shifting towards programmatic execution. Sessions were geared towards discussing adoption of programmatic for brands in India and perhaps the challenges for programmatic media.

  1. Affiliate marketing is the way to go forward

Affiliate marketing is not dead rather it is still growing. The high prices of AdWords and the increased sophistication in attribution tracking tools have pushed marketers towards affiliates. They are now able to track the performance at each step of the funnel. At Adtech, we interacted with various affiliate networks in India. As consumers increase their time spent on digital, brands too are looking for innovative and alternate methods of attracting customers and affiliate marketing has proved to become one of them.

  1. Technology and innovation are becoming the underlying force for many organisations.

Immense advancement and great tech ideas ruled the show. Social media was used extensively to drive engagement during the event and sessions. Live streaming led to immersive experiences. VR and augmented reality were seen to becoming more mainstream, even the complimentary gift was a VR box! There is a strong focus to find a balance between technology and human instincts to support current and future business requirements.

  1. Growth of start-ups in India

Gauging from the various conversations we had with attendees at our booth and at networking opportunities, we came across many freshly funded start-ups with digital innovation at its roots. For e.g. platform that allows the use of multiple Facebook live videos and another that allows a user to showcase relevant ads while calling a contact through the mobile phone and so on. With all the various digital initiatives the government is undertaking, 2017 seems like the year of technology start-ups!

  1. IOT is the new focus for businesses

We all have heard of IOT making noise in the tech world. We saw interesting conversation at Adtech on how businesses are leveraging the IOT technology. We mostly get to hear about IOT from a developer’s perspective but opinions from marketers offered a unique angle at the session. The panel also discussed the rise in beacon technology and its potential to transform the Indian shopping industry.

  1. Video, Video, Video!

The rise in the usage of social media channels has impacted the viewing and search behaviour and definitely the way in which we consume content. The focus on mobile and smaller screens along with shorter attention spans of the new generation user point towards video content. User behaviour has propelled the YouTube advertising network to launch quick 5-second video ads transforming the advertising industry. Sessions discussed some next-generation ad formats and methods for video based on augmented reality. The panel on OTT and on-demand’s meteoric rise shared video ad metrics and referred to live video as the new powerful tool in the online marketing toolbox.

  1. Adapt to stay ahead of the curve

Evolve or Die as they say! With constant changes in technology, every business and entrepreneur must be open to experimenting with more innovative strategies to evolve with the changes. One must take advantage of the agile state of the industry and break away from the traditional methodologies. E.g. one of the sessions shared the digital transformation and growth story of a traditional brand Patanjali that helped them in gaining a massive market share.

  1. Focus on automation

The growth of online channels has propelled the adoption of marketing automation. Therefore, it is crucial for organisations to effectively connect the dots between technical possibilities and strategic opportunities that are reshaping marketing. Amongst all this, real-time data is the core of what’s powering modern marketing. As a part of tech transformation, data at every step is now synced with automation platforms ensuring that best possible experience and engagement is offered to the consumer.

  1. Lastly, ‘People buy from people’, so build relationships and connections at events to expand business opportunities. Use the physical presence to create a great customer experience and first impression that will eventually build trust in your brand and drive people to become loyal customers.

“The level of conversation was impressively high. Any MarTech individual should be at this event if they want to jump ahead of the curve”- Adele Coelho, Head of Marketing, IME at Meltwater.

My observation at AdTech New Delhi was positive. We found ourselves inspired and refreshed with ideas and with deeper insights about the quickly evolving marketing industry.


Managing customer experience in the digital age

We interact with many brands on a daily basis but do we remember each and every experience? Well no, we either remember an exceptional experience or a bad experience that we have had with a brand. What does this indicate? The answer is simple; there is no scope for average!

Let me elaborate with a help of a personal example, I was a loyalist to an airline brand and in one of my many travels; they once misplaced my bags, which I agree can happen sometimes. I was given a complaint id and was asked to follow up on the customer service number. Each time, a different executive answered the phone and I was asked to re-explain the case but yet had no information. After complaining on social media channels and after multiple follow up calls my bags were traced. No explanations were given and I received half empty bags. Did I use this airline ever again?

The answer is no and I don’t intend to either. I narrated this incident to about a 100 people and wrote this blog post even after 2 years. This indicates that a bad experience can leave a long lasting impression on a consumer’s mind also affecting the repurchase intention and eventually loyalty.

What can customer experience do for your brand?

Experiences can help brands narrate a story, voice their values and culture, add character thus humanising the brand. It gives the brand an authority over others and is a driver of conversation and engagement. Today’s customers connect and interact across multiple channels at a given time and anticipate a seamless anytime experience. They expect compelling content that not only captures attention but also makes them want to share it amongst their network. More than anything, they want to be heard and want a personalised and customised engagement with the brand.

What brands do wrong?

The customer journeys have become cyclical instead of linear and there is now a constant interaction of the consumer with the brand where its offerings are constantly being evaluated. Therefore, brands must design for each touch point and each touch point must talk to one another.

Most companies understand the customer journey but don’t provide the same level of customer service at every touch point. A lot of them don’t engage their entire organisation in the process and manage customer service in silos, which leads to inconsistent delivery. Some of them have it integrated across channels but are channel focused and not customer focused and others don’t have seamless integration.

Brands are often creating disjointed customer experiences.Different individuals are assigned to handle the various channels where there is little or no interaction among them regarding their communication with the various stakeholders. However, with today’s savvy consumer, brands need to manage customer service centrally by creating a repository from where all the tasks are distributed to the various heads responsible. This allows brands to monitor and evaluate the issues addressed and the communication taking place with its various stakeholder. Various tools such as MEngage allow collection and tagging features that allow task management and multi-channel integration to ensure a seamless customer experience process.

Six hallmarks from companies that excel in customer experience:

  1. Define a clear, compelling value proposition delivered through customer journeys
  2. Know the journeys that matter, and why they matter
  3. Continuously innovate the end-to-end journey experiences.
  4. Use journeys to reinforce front-line culture
  5. Optimise operational processes and systems to ensure consistent delivery
  6. Use journeys to define metrics and working mechanism.

Remember across channels, across the company, across customer service teams and across advertising- brands must maintain the messaging, experience and reputation to manage the expectations of a digitally savvy and modern consumer.

Content adapted from a webinar conducted for Meltwater by Malhar Barai. Check out the webinar here.

Marketing to the On Demand Consumer

Here is a snapshot of how my every day looks like!

I wake up at 5.30 am, with my groggy eyes I check my phone. My Running app prompts me to get up and go for a run. It understands my fitness goals and schedules my training. It motivates me, plays my favourite music, keeps a track on my activity and pushes me to reach my goal. I return home feeling content and famished. My app suggests my daily meal plan and also takes charge of the cooking instructions. While I hastily try to get ready, with just a few taps on my phone, I book my Uber ride. On my way, I engage on social media and look through my Flipboard to read some content curated just for me. At work, I deal with various automated platforms that simplify my day-to-day tasks. At lunch, I use Zomato to order myself a quick lunch on my desk. One app reminds me of my meetings while another to stay hydrated. In the evening, I use Grofers to get my groceries delivered to my doorstep at the desired time. Oh no, my cook yet again disappeared on me. UrbanClap to my rescue! I plop on my couch and do some Netflix while I instruct Alexa to turn the lights out. How this day different to my mother’s day?

She uses her phone to call the cab company to book a cab, walks down to the restaurant close to work to grab lunch, picks up grocery from the nearest local grocery store and interacts with the neighbours to take suggestions for the best yoga place or cook in the area and ends her day by watching live TV. Starkly different from my day, isn’t it?

The change in the consumer lifestyle and behaviour has given rise to the ‘on demand consumer’. This consumer dominates the ‘lifestyle commerce industry’ and is always on, always responsive and always delivering. Lifestyle commerce is based on the now and real-time experiences as opposed to e-commerce where consumers engage using a website that is time and process driven. On demand removes the service provider to create direct and quick contact between the company and the consumer. The lifetime buying power of tech native millennial generation is 10.4 billion dollars only using on-demand services at hand (Accenture, 2015). Many new age businesses are driving change to become available on demand to create successful revenue models causing a massive disruption in the e-commerce and traditional industries all across the globe.

The On-demand Consumer’s Expectations

On-demand solutions: In the past, consumers accessed the website/store, researched to decide and waited to receive their delivery. Whereas, the on-demand consumer wants things NOW!

On demand peer reviews: In the e-commerce days, we logged into our social media platforms and asked our friends for reviews while now they are available on the app right there and then. If we login using through our social media profile, we can even read the trusted reviews of our friends. Voila, it can’t get simpler than this!

On-demand offers: Instant coupons when you enter a store using geofence technology or offers when you enter an app based on your previous selections. These easily accessible discounts offered at the right place and at the right time allow customers to make fast decisions.

On demand success: We go on a food delivery app, select the restaurant, read reviews, browse the offers, make a decision and get the food delivered. The process allows us to get what we want at the time we want creating a loop of successfully satisfied customers.

On demand service: With services available on-demand, there arises a need of 24/7 customer service. Technology providers have already addressed this gap and are deploying automated bots using artificial intelligence to ensure round the clock service. Surveys depict, a customer expects to have their query answered in approx. 60 minutes in contrast to traditional scenarios where it is 24-48 hours. The shift from one brand to the other in the on-demand world is just a few taps away therefore; this becomes essential in earning repeat business.

How to be available on demand

  1. Find a gap in the traditional models. Understand how everyday products can be made more convenient, identify people’s pain points and provide a product/service on the go for the new on-demand consumer. E.g. Airbnb, Hey doc etc.
  2. Cross-collaborate to offer all in one solution- one platform with multiple services equals time-saving and quick delivery. E.g. Zomato
  3. Direct app experience without splitting customers into two platforms. Ensure your technology is geared towards the thumb first experience.
  4. Integrate social media in the user interface. For the on-demand consumer, social media is second nature and they consider it like a person and not like an app.
  5. Include as much automation to offer end-to-end digital solutions. The on-demand consumer is hungry for automation and is progressing towards IoT, machine learning, virtual reality and other technologies to get a seamless experience.
  6. Be awake 24/7 for your customer.
  7. Constant development- progress with the customer as they move through their buyer’s journey. Keep your product relevant by adding few features or by collaborating with new vendors.
  8. Easy to use products- Tap, Tap, Tap and in three clicks the goal is fulfilled. Intuitive, personalised and seamless is the way to go!