The Deepfake Danger to Brands

Here at DMN, if we have any position, it’s a pro-technology one. We believe it helps marketers, consumers, and brands. When applied properly, technology can transform data into an insight that can bring you closer to your customer. Add machine learning and AI to this process, and you get something that mimics a powerful intuition, a sixth sense of what the customer wants now, and what they may want down the line. By all accounts, the world is getting faster, smarter, and more connected.

But it’s not all fat bottom lines and throngs of adoring customers. Sometimes technology has a darker aspect to it. We’ve covered data privacy quite a fair bit, but there is another, more sinister aspect of technology, which could be quite damaging to a brand’s credibility if not threaten its existence.

Deepfakes, or altered videos and graphics, have been making the rounds on the internet first as a joke, then as more targeted attacks. Recently in the news certain political leaders circulated a video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi apparently slurring her words. The video was discovered to be a fake, and was traced to an individual who runs a political Facebook account. He has denied the allegations, (and plans to sue) but regardless of who did it, the deed was done. For a little while, people believed Nancy Pelosi was drunk while on national television.

Pelosi has had a long political career, and has endured many attacks on her personal and professional character. Her brand (at least for the time being) is secure. But that is not the case for every brand. David Pring-Mill has written about deepfakes, and theorized about the severe downsides posed to companies. Even without the aid of deepfakes, in extreme circumstances, a single media flub can doom a company.

Well, the impact of deepfakes is  longer theoretical. And with large tech companies taking varied positions on how they choose to handle misinformation, it’s up to marketers to be proactive when it comes to their technology, and to be aware of the potential risks that come with the potential technology brings.

Fight Fire With Fire Sometimes, the best solution is more and better technology. What are deepfakers using? Stay a step ahead of them. Just because deepfakers are out there doesn’t mean they can’t be outsmarted. What are some techniques that they use? What resources do you have at your disposal to determine if a piece of content is fake? Being prepared is key.

Let Yourself Be Known People who know you best can tell when you’re not yourself. But do your customers know you that way? If they see a video or image that’s out of character, the first reaction might be concern, not to take that content as gospel. A brand or a vendor that is more distant from their clients may be able to pass a deepfake as the real thing, particularly if your content isn’t resonating. (Everyone thinks their content is amazing, but do your consumers think so? Are they loyal enough to tell you if they think something were amiss?)

Be Aware of the Risks This may sound elementary, but marketers are expected to be more and more comfortable with the latest technology when it comes to designing and executing campaigns. That includes knowing what the vulnerabilities are and how to troubleshoot when things go wrong. If you’re up to speed on your technology, you can anticipate problems and plan for their eventuality, instead of being the proverbial sitting duck.

Catch it Early If the worst does happen, and a piece of branded content is faked and is spreading misinformation about your brand or company, address it immediately. Time is of the essence, and there is no time to point fingers and hold excessively long meetings. Credibility is on the line, and a timely response can make or break a career. The faster and more thorough response, the more trustworthy a brand becomes. Every brand endures some form of crisis at one point or another. It’s how you handle it that will determine your success as a marketer.

              

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