The truth will find you out: it’s not just Generation Z that’s demanding transparency

One of us was recently briefed by their teenager on the James Charles situation. (For those of you that don’t know, Charles is a beauty vlogger who haemorrhaged followers after a show of disloyalty to an older mentor). Said teen was one of the millions to unfollow Charles on Instagram.

Typical Generation Z, we might think. Into influencers, integrity. But we’re not so sure it’s about the demographics…

Shortly after this conversation, we got another lesson in social media-driven transparency at an industry event. The CEO of a large company (not a client) was giving an opening speech while behind him ran a rather beautiful yet utopian video demonstrating his firm’s various construction projects

The problem was that this was an extremely well-informed audience. Everybody there knew perfectly well that the perfect project is a rare beast indeed. Some of them had even been to the sites we saw before us on screen, they had seen the challenges and issues first-hand, they had provided solutions and advice. They didn’t appreciate this squeaky-clean version of events.

And so, as the CEO was speaking, a rather less-than-perfect photo of one of the featured sites was circulating on a WhatsApp group, complete with witty caption. The CEO, like James Charles, lost part of his audience as the photo spread between WhatsApp groups.

There are a few morals to this story.

First, know your audience. A bit of gloss is good to attract interest and raise profile among a general audience, but don’t expect it to impress those at the sharp end. Second, marketeers can’t invent a brand that doesn’t fit reality because, with the magic of social media, the truth will find you out. And third, it’s not just Generation Z that cares about truth and honesty too – it’s just that us older generations are now also making the most of our social media tools.