YOU Got to be Authentic

There is a voracious appetite for innovation across the globe especially in the digital space. But innovation doesn’t necessarily mean losing touch with authenticity and personalisation of communications.

Many brands, PR agencies and their clients are looking for ‘creative’, ‘out the box’ marketing or communications campaigns that will ultimately grab readers’ attention and translate into sales. No matter how creative the idea, Reputation of the brand should always be considered. One way of testing the validity of a creative campaign is to ask the question ‘will it be seen as authentic by our audience’. Consumers now have a personal relationship with brands that goes deeper than transactions. Such relationships are putting greater emphasis on corporate behavior.

The outcry over YOU Magazine’s recent campaign featuring celebrities pretending to be bald and which was endorsed by the Cancer Association of South Africa, has stirred deep emotions and raised the voices of cancer survivors and supporters alike. Words like ‘appalled’, ‘outraged’, ‘insulting’, ‘ludicrous’, ‘insensitive’ and a ‘mockery’ have been used by consumers to lash out at the campaign.

Not only has the reputation of the magazine been tarnished, but The Cancer Association and the celebrities who were the ‘fake bald heads’ of this campaign could very well have dragged their image/brand through the mud along with the magazine.  As Jean Smyth, EWN’s Cape Town sports editor and survivor of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, highlighted in his article “ …in this context it points rather markedly at swelling the magazine’s own bottom line by using ‘celebrities’ keen to further their own cause than actually make a real and meaningful difference or contribution.”

Reputation and brand are intertwined and cannot operate in separate silos. What impacts your brand impacts your reputation and what impacts your reputation directly affects your brand too. Ultimately when brand and reputation are aligned in a planned and genuine way, only then is authentic engagement created.


When not executed in this way you experience an authenticity gap, which is exactly what YOU magazine is experiencing.

Not only the visual aspect of the campaign was poorly received, but the narrative exacerbated the situation. Using terms like the pictures were ‘doctored’ was not viewed as satirical writing but sensitive words used in bad taste.

The symbolism of shaving ones head in solidarity for the fight against cancer was entrenched years ago when the Cancer Association initiated the campaign. To dilute the gesture as YOU magazine has done through their campaign has obviously stirred emotions not only for those fighting the disease but for most people who have in some way or another been affected by the disease.

YOU just got to be authentic!

Written by Selina Jardim