Fake News Not Only An Issue For Politics, But For Brand Marketers

Taykey, a real-time audience data company, weighed in on the fake news controversy that bubbled up in the aftermath of the presidential election. In a blog post entitled “Fake News and Half Truths Pose Real Threat for Brands,” the company argues that fake news and half truths are not only posing a challenge for the electorate, but brand marketers as well.

The company uses the example of the recent buzz surrounding brands New Balance and Pepsi, which had executive quotes about President-elect Trump distorted or fabricated. The controversy attracted unwanted negative attention to both brands.

For example, the post stated that New Balance’s VP of public affairs was quoted as saying, “The Obama admin turned a deaf ear to us & frankly w/ Pres-Elect Trump we feel things are going to move in the right direction.” The blog post said a spokesperson for the sneaker company had to clarify that the statement only referred to Trump’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

In the case of Pepsi, the company’s CEO noted that some of her employees were distressed about Trump's election. These remarks were spun into a fake news story about Pepsi declaring that it didn't want Trump supporters' business, which led to a boycott from these voters. 

Taykey said both examples raise the question of how brands can engage in “safe” political discourse. 

New Balance's quote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was taken out of context as an endorsement of Trump. Within days, social conversation volume for New Balance rose by 100% (the brand’s biggest conversation-generating event of the year). However the conversation was negative and brand sentiment declined by 75% over the comment. Images of people burning their New Balance shoes flooded social media. 

Rival Reebok used the negative sentiment to distribute sneakers to Trump protestors. The action boosted social buzz for Reebok by more than 50%, while sentiment remained largely positive. 

In the case of Pepsi, conversation volume increased but negative conversation drove social brand sentiment down by 93%. And positive sentiment for Pepsi dropped from 72% to just 4.5%, according to Taykey.

So what are the takeaways from these “events”? Taykey said the potential danger of false and misleading quotes and comments makes it difficult for corporations to engage in serious political discussion. And this is especially true for brands that target millennials. Taykey found that nearly 70% of online conversations about the election were driven by millennials. 

“These recent PR [public relations] crises demonstrate some of the challenges for brands posed by an always connected consumer, especially as it relates to sensitive topics which are often prone to fake and distorted headlines,” Taykey CEO Amit Avner told RTBlog via email.

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