The inability to tell fact from fiction is being driven by a number of factors and is challenging the way that consumers perceive and engage with brands. To help gain a better understanding of how consumers discern information and make their purchase decisions, SLD conducted a study among 2000 respondents in January, 2021. As part of our DeepReal series, we will be using the research findings to offer insights and strategies for CPG, Retail and Finance brands. Part Two of this series can be read here.
Seeing Is Believing… Or Is It?
In previous generations, discerning fact from fiction was a simple equation: seeing = believing. Today, we cannot believe our own eyes. Although misinformation has been a frequently used tool in the past, technology has enabled deceptive information like never before. From deepfake videos of the Queen of England and Barack Obama to spoof sites and social media echo chambers, it has become more and more challenging to discern what is “real.”
At SLD we firmly believe we are witnessing a redefinition of “realness,” both through technological advances and socio-political shifts. This rise in power of “false” undermines our ability to perceive the world around us with any sense of trust or security, threatening all aspects of life and posing what may be the biggest threat to humanity since the advent of nuclear weapons.
Why Does This Matter To Brands?
Let’s take a simple example to illustrate why this wave of disbelief is a big problem for brands. Take the growth of plant-based meats becoming mainstream and being marketed as a “natural” substitute for the real thing. Some of the benefits include a healthier diet and reducing the agricultural impact on global warming. Good things, right? Here’s how misinformation could run with this topic:
- If we start at a very basic level, the word “natural” could become either debated or dismissed by consumers, depending on their existing biases.
- It’s possible that the meat industry could promote “alternative facts” that decry plant-based meats as unnatural and challenge whether or not they really help reduce emissions.
- If we go deeper into the world of misinformation, we could see conspiracy theories develop about how plant-based meats are full of harmful chemicals aligned to some ulterior motive. These theories could be cited by people who appear to be experts, with credible looking websites and credentials – but they might not even be real people at all.