A quick and dirty shortcut to authenticity

Last week, we wrote about the rise of brands interacting with each other on social, and how this can be best executed.

This time, we want to talk about another social trend we’re noticing more and more with brands in 2021 – they’re becoming self-referential, from the point of view of the person posting the content.

For example, McDonald’s UK often tweet about ‘the boss’ signing off McDelivery codes.

This meta content provides an opportunity to humanise the brand and create more owned content. This is most relevant for brands wanting to tap into a Gen Z audience, who are known to reject a lot of traditional advertising channels and instead seek authentic experiences from brands. This audience don’t want to buy from brands, they want to join them, be part of the community.

Evoking empathy through content

This is particularly prominent on TikTok, as it’s a platform that’s culture driven and powered by community. For example, Duolingo has become known for the owl mascot featuring heavily in content, and videos often reference the content creators themselves, such as this video about messages between the social team. But take a look at the caption – it goes one step further by not only being self-referential, but self-depreciating too, joking about the potential of losing their job…

Meanwhile, Ryanair has become well known for its personified plane, and has posted about other brands using the same filter. If we delve into the comments, we can see replies seemingly from the content creator, but posted through the official brand account.

Then take a look at the comment below. Plane-based pun? Yes. But it could also be self-deprecating humour about pay.

Building trust as a brand, especially as a large-scale corporation, takes time and requires authenticity. Showing the real personalities and faces behind the brand, people who the target audience will be able to relate to, is a bit of a hack to achieving this.

And when we start to see self-depreciating comments, such as about pay, this evokes empathy from the reader and creates distance between the brand and the capitalist system it’s part of – it’s humanised. But this commodification of empathy can’t pass as authentic, and it won’t take long before consumers are calling brands out for this. Again, using Duolingo as an example, this has already been seen on some TikToks

So, how can brands be authentic on social?

There’s no reason why brands can’t show the people behind the posts, but this content needs to be honest and transparent about what it is, rather than creating puppets to befriend the audience.

A great example of this comes from individual branches of larger companies creating their own content, which feels far more authentic. Take for example M&S Romford’s dances and Superdrug White Rose’s videos of ‘Staff Secrets’ and ‘Takeover Tuesdays’.

It goes without saying that any social content needs to stay true to your overarching brand and proposition, be consistent and of course relevant for your audience. Do this, and you’ll foster genuine connection without the need for sneaky shortcuts.

Written by:

Leah Groom Marketing Manager


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