Brands and “Authenticity”: When the Hackneyed Becomes Crucial

If you read a strategic brief at any point over the past five years, you read the word “authentic.” Whether yogurt, beer, or casual wear, brands fell over themselves in their rush to assert their ‘authenticity.’ Frankly, most protested too much and overuse diminished the word’s impact.

But this week, GoDaddy, the purveyor of web addresses that spent its early years lobbing embarrassingly sexist and sophomoric ads on the Super Bowl, did something genuinely authentic: they pulled their web-hosting services from the white supremacist site The Daily Stormer. It was a strong, very public move and truly embodied authenticity.

But that’s not how the story read Monday morning on Facebook…

No, the week started with a flurry of Facebook posts about how Anonymous, the loose network of international hacktivists, had taken over that website and shut them down. If you visited the site, you saw this full page manifesto:

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Like most things brought forth from these faulty minds, their intellectual ineptitude proved their undoing. The misspelling of ‘sights’ raised my suspicions, and by mid-Monday afternoon, reporters uncovered that indeed, this was little more than an attempt at self-martyrdom/face-saving.

But this pathetic episode clearly demonstrates how easy it is to manipulate truth in this digital era. And it will only get harder: a German/American research team has already developed Face2Face: real-time motion capture software that can transfer facial expression from an actor to any video clip you have. So if you need the Pope to endorse your candidate, you can do it. See a rather horrifying demonstration of it here.

The future of truth looks increasingly frightening. But happily, at this moment, it’s still kind of a clown show. This tweet from Anonymous itself perfectly sums up the fundamental issue for these mouth breathers, no matter how much hate they spill…

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Actually, don’t. We’re happy to have you keep sucking for a long, long time.


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