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Marketers and Executive Teams Take Notice: Fake News Isn’t Just for Politicians

Marketing results aren’t what you expected?

 

Ad campaign getting delayed going out the door?

 

Your CEO’s statement got highjacked and turned into a social media spasm?

 

Jokes aside- that last quip was a crisis faced by PepsiCo and their CEO, Indra Nooyi after a podcast interview with Freakonomics became the subject of some harsh feedback on social media.

What started as a mundane explanation of PepsiCo’s research-based findings regarding male vs. female Doritos consumption habits turned into a social media uproar about gender equality. Describing the comparison between male and female eating habits, Nooyi stated,

 

“They (men) lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag, they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth… women I think would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public…

 

After British tabloid, The Sun, ran with the story claiming that “Lady Doritos” would be an upcoming PepsiCo product, social media and even late night TV were quick to jump into the criticism.

From a marketer’s perspective, Nooyi’s comments on the research were nothing out of the ordinary. It’s part of our job to help clients better understand the nuances of different consumer segments. The customer can never become the hero of your story if you don’t understand them.

But with the speed that information is deiminated today, inaccurate or out of context information can become vernacular in no-time. Let me make it clear- “fake news” is not only a concern for politicians. It can easily entrap your brand and take your story hostage. So, how do you respond?

 

“From President Trump’s unprecedented tweets to the groundbreaking movement that was incited from the two simple words of the #MeToo campaign, the power of the written word demonstrated its ability over and over again to stir overwhelming emotion and even change the course of history. For marketers, in particular, we can reflect on the magnitude that words carried in 2017 and its implications for 2018 and beyond.” –Deborah Kuo, TopRight

 

Story alignment must be at the forefront of any approach to combat the spread of misinformation. Marketers are on the front lines of ensuring the guardrails and extra diligence are in place to keep the story ruthlessly aligned.

If you are leaving this responsibility to the communications department, you might be missing the point. Alignment is not just about homing in on the right talking points. It’s about ensuring your brand’s story is aligned in every aspect.

In a recent HBR article, Johnathan Trevor spoke at depth to the importance of ensuring your organization is focused on maintaining strategic alignment. Johnathan lays out that there typically isn’t any one group that is responsible for ensuring strategic alignment. I dare to say it is to the benefit of everyone that marketers take up the task.

No one department should be better positioned to understand the customers and ensure the brand’s story is meeting its promise. This also puts marketers at the forefront of the fight against fake news.

 

Take Charge of Your Brand Story

 Words can easily get twisted and turned to create a viral fake news story that with the help of a clickbait rich title, as seen with Doritos, can put your team into crisis mode. Yet we’ve learned, now more than ever, in an accelerating sea of confusion and chaos of interruptive marketing messages, people really just want your story.

Why do you do what you do? What is that higher purpose? Showing the motivations behind your messages- to show that it isn’t just canned PR fluff- helps people relate and understand the truth.

Ensuring you have a simple, clear and aligned story can help break the negative misinformation cycle, but it isn’t enough. The ruthless consistency of your company’s brand story has to be your brand’s number one priority. Through an effort of ruthless alignment, you can create a brand so strong that skeptical consumers today aren’t listening to any nonsense.

This means being involved across the entire organization. Operations, finance, corporate development, customer service and sales all need to act in alignment with the brand’s overarching purpose. It’s about making sure your entire company is clearly aligned with your company values, so any communications or actions stay true to the brand’s desired reputation.

With a strong story, customers will not only want to learn more, they will want to engage, buy and make your story their own. Today consumers are questioning and engaging in everything they listen to and read. So, companies need to be more aware and take control of what information they are sharing.

Want to learn more about how brands have transformed how they leverage marketing to enable alignment?

Get a free preview of my new book: Marketing, Interrupted where I share some of the lessons learned from transformational marketing leaders through their challenges and successes.

Today consumers are questioning everything they listen to and read. They question the motives behind everything. If you are looking for a playbook to help develop the art of your story – to cut through the noise and be trusted -download our free 3S Playbook for Transformational Marketers.

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