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Authenticity in a digital world

Living online can sometimes make you feel like an Alice wandering in your own Wonderland. There is endless possibility to curate or create an online presence that could be as authentic – or as fabricated – as you desire. The temptation to lead fans and followers down the rabbit hole into your enhanced digital profile has an incredible draw, but is increasingly at odds with what audiences desire.

This digital dichotomy is evidenced in these two stats; one shows how 1 in 10 attach fitness trackers to their pets to pretend they had done more steps, and also that one in five 16-24 year olds in the UK are now sober. This increase has been attributed to wanting more authentic relationships with friends, unclouded by the haze of Instagram filters or too much booze.

Social media feeds especially can very easily be totally detached from reality as this award winning short film, A Social Life, neatly illustrates. Figures such as Essena O’Neill and Iskra Lawrence have come out to call BS about how people, and especially women are portrayed or portray themselves on social media.

Authenticity in a digital world

So it is no wonder that millennials are craving authenticity from those around them – and when brands sit side by side in social media feeds, this means them too. A recent Gen Z study found that those aged 13-25 chose brands that echoed their desire to live “an authentic and mindful life”, with 45% refusing to purchase from a brand if they didn’t suit this ethos.

This trend is being shown most clearly in advertising to women. As we’ve talked about before on The Wigwam, one of the largest trends in advertising and marketing across the board has been the rise of female empowerment, aka femvertising, campaigns. Everyone from deodorant brands to washing up liquids are looking to attach themselves to wider cultural issues and discrimination that women face on a daily basis.

Yet, as Amy Poehler noted – “With all the Photoshop and fake stuff, [young women’s] world is so different from when I grew up. But that makes them crave authenticity – and they’re really good at sniffing it out.” Not unlike O’Neill and Lawrence, women have a pretty good BS detector when it comes to advertising too.

This is beautifully encapsulated by the savvy and ruthlessly satirical team at Toronto-based agency John St – who created “Jane St”, to highlight the farcical levels of exploitation some brands have sunk to. Their intro video pretty much sums up the backlash that major brands have faced by preying on the insecurities of women and repackaging it as female empowerment.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, as the brands whose businesses are already built with these femvertising principles at their core can authentically use them in their marketing.

One of our own clients, Liz Earle, is a prime example, being founded by two entrepreneurial women, and also having fostered a vibrant and supportive community of brand advocates.

In terms of their effectiveness on consumer engagement, a number of femvertising ads are working. Ads that feature genuine women are welcomed – 75% of women said they liked ads that feature authentic everyday women, while ⅓ of these Gen Z girls surveyed said they also want brands to showcase “real bodies”. On YouTube femvertising ads are two-and-a-half times less likely to be skipped than others, and 80% more likely to be liked, shared, commented on lead to channel subscription. This led CEO Susan Wojcicki to claim, Ads that empower women don’t just generate impressions, they leave them.

Authenticity in digital world

What can other brands take away from this?

  • Use social media to build authenticity with an honest personality. Portray your human side.
  • Consumers trust brand recommendation from friends far above advertising. Real people, or influencers with their own communities > celebrity endorsements.
  • TOV should be down-to-earth wherever possible. Ads with this realistic approach get a warm response, like this brilliant Organic Valley ad shows. Gen Z have “perfection fatigue” – they are far more interested in a perspective that is more original.
  • Don’t be afraid to lose the filter. Platforms like Snapchat or Casey Neistat’s newly launched Beme enable this unfiltered communication in channels where Gen Z are already consuming content from their peers.
  • Since millennials have proven themselves to be savvy, take care before jumping on trends that aren’t suitable – or suffer their wrath.