Argentina: Real brands, fake news
Argentina is perhaps the country in Latin America that generates the highest expectations among foreign investors and large multinational corporations. A market of approximately 43 million inhabitants is not to be underestimated. In recent years, internal consumption has suffered, mainly due to rising inflation affecting purchasing power. In addition, global brands and companies have faced significant restrictions hindering their ability to effectively compete in the market. However, with the recent change in government, the country is showing signs of opening up to the international market. This “reopening” begs the question: will Argentina once again be one of the key Latin American markets?
As if local economic conditions are not challenging enough, companies operating in Argentina (and around the world) are facing consumption trends that did not exist 10 years ago. Previously, brands were focused on ensuring that their products and services were seen by potential consumers, securing the best spots at the retail store and appearing on the right television or traditional media channels. Nobody initially imagined the radical change the advent of the internet would bring to the brand-consumer relationship.
A critical component of brand building comes into play here: reputation. In the blink of an eye, a brand can be damaged and public opinion can change. Brands are constantly prone to judgments, opinions, complaints and sometimes praise that consumers exchange amongst themselves based on direct or indirect interactions. These brand experiences are shared in real time and travel without filters through social media.
We can refer to this time of digital turmoil as the “Fake News Age”. This new era brings a multitude of factors that continually threaten brands’ reputation and success in the market. “Fake news” is one of the biggest risks affecting brands today. A baseless rumor spread by a total stranger – put together in a matter of seconds – has the potential to be retransmitted in minutes, without anyone stopping it or questioning the accuracy or source of the information.
In this day and age, digital influencers, who are nothing more than the evolution of brand ambassadors, have become more sophisticated. The risk involved is that many do not have a code of conduct and don’t report to anyone other than themselves. Their number of followers personifies them as deities and their egos make them demanding and impossible to question. Marketers are sometimes dangerously quick to link their brand with influencers, based only on their number of followers, without questioning psychological or behavioral traits that could lead them to be associated with public scandals opposed to the values of their brand.
Last but not least, a risk that is often overlooked is unqualified online community management. Yet, statistics show this is the main cause of most crises that brands and organizations face on social networks. In these scenarios, the team or individual that performs community management work is not the only responsible party. There are entire areas of digital marketing behind a strategy, and even the management team that erroneously responds plays a critical role when a brand is compromized on social networks. Unfortunately, Argentina has some of the most controversial crisis cases generated by the mismanagement of social networks in the region.
The speed in which information is spread over social networks, the lack of data verification and the elimination of language barriers through the increasing use of images, coupled with the high penetration of mobile devices, all create a perfect storm that leaves brands exposed. The reputation of a brand is too valuable to leave in the hands of an isolated community manager, and the best way to protect it is by accompanying all social media actions with a contingency plan that permits swift and effective responses to any questioning from the court of public opinion.