A big South African telecommunications company decided to use an international athlete to become the face of its campaign much to the distaste of domestic athletes, consumers and media. While I understand the vehemence there is a definite correlation between the message the brand was trying to put out and what the athlete represents. I didn’t really see what the big fuss was about, this athlete ticks all the right boxes. He is well respected globally, he is a philanthropist, he is a hard worker and has a clean image. However, I started to think about why people would make such a big noise about this issue? The answer was obvious- he isn’t local. To me that answer was not enough to sway me to feel any more or any less about that brand. Plenty brands overlook their own celebrities or influencers to associate with international icons just to gain a competitive edge.
Then I remembered the concept of the authenticity gap which in short is the gap between what an audience perceives a brand to be and what they actually experience of the brand. Was this brand being authentic? That I will leave to you to decide but there are always things brand managers can bear in mind when embarking on marketing and communications campaigns.
Understand your own brand before you try to communicate anything to audiences- this may seem like an obvious first step, but in cases where brands feel competitor pressure they may overlook small details that can tip the scale backwards on brand credibility.
Know your audience- if the campaign has the potential to garner controversy put yourself in their shoes, think worst case scenarios, anticipate the backlash and decide if it is worth it. If it is and will help your brand achieve shock value and engagement then go for it. If the damage far outweighs the advantage relook your strategy.
Sometimes having the “trophy” for all the wrong reasons magnifies your flaws. Reading all the comments from consumers pertaining to this particular campaign, most focused on the opposite of what the messaging was about and focused more on how slow they feel the product is.
It’s not necessary to pull rabbits out the hat all the time. Understandably, we live in a world where we need to be constantly creative to stand out in the influx of edgy social and traditional media campaigns. But if you stick to basics you are able to easily bridge the authenticity gap, because your messaging and your practices align.