Why Authenticity is the Most Important Brand Asset Under Your Control 



Have you seen the recent social media and news storm against Dolce and Gabbana (D&G)? If you are not a fashion follower then the details may have slipped past you. If you ever needed a good illustration of why honesty is always the best policy, this is a good lesson! 

Quick rundown of the issues.....

D&G had an event in Shanghai. The advertising for the event featured an Asian model trying to eat a pizza with chopsticks. At the very best this was laziness in advertising and extremely poorly thought out. The advert was, rightly, considered to be offensive. 

Now, as Jo Ellison says in her great article FT Weekend 1/2 Dec, “Brands May be able to overcome a lazy advertising campaign. But inauthenticity can totally undo one” 

The bigger problems for D&G followed next when negative and abusive comments towards critics of the advert were made public via Instagram. At this point the brand insisted that the Instagram accounts had been hacked. Meanwhile many Chinese retailers dropped D&G from their sites and the brand appeared on video to apologise. 

You might not be a global fashion house but as a business person or owner, how can you make sure you and your staff always act in the right way?

• Be honest, respectful of others and adhere to your brand values AT ALL TIMES. In this digital world you cannot be “off duty” or unprofessional. Remember that your personal social media accounts will be read by your customers 

• Do your homework - if you are unsure about other cultures and what will or won’t work there then get expert advice

• Have a policy and recommendations for responding to social media and press - including a crisis management plan AND have PR and media training for all staff. It starts with internal PR - making sure all staff are on the same page. It’s worth sharing your policy with your suppliers and stakeholders too. Whilst I’m all for freedom of speech, as a business leader you need to manage what is said about your brand and company in a proactive and positive way. 

Lead. 

With good intent.

• Respond to customer complaints or social media comments quickly and honestly (and take advice as necessary) 

Above all, If you set out your values clearly and stick to them authentically at all times, you can’t go far wrong. 

“Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet – thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.” – Lance Secretan