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Fake News Is A Creator Of Doppelgänger Brand Image

Check the source of information, search and authenticate the source and also verify the content through other sources before making any comment or decision

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“Fake it 'til you make it”. More than 5000 years back or 5152 to be precise an event took place in the Mahabharata when Krishna plotted by killing an elephant named Ashwatthama and claimed it to be Drona’s son (with the same name). Fake news, which led to Drona’s death. Well in today’s age of social media, the biggest asset for businesses is their brand – and all that they mean to consumers. With every consumer being a media and can create user-generated content are the ones that control the perception of your brand. The fake news created and circulated by consumers, competition and media can kill the reputation of a brand. There are many instances where fake news has ruined the reputation of leading brands, for example, Coca-Cola and Pepsi can be used to clean toilets, Kurkure has plastic in them, there are GPS chips in the new 2000 currency notes. But even before the social media came into existing, many top news media were reporting that Iraq has the weapon of mass destruction.

According to Collins dictionary, the fake news was the “word of the year, which is “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”. Over the past half a decade, fake news has emerged as a powerful tool for creation of a brand's doppelgänger image. Brand doppelgänger Image is defined as a family of disparaging images and stories about a brand that is circulated in popular culture by a loosely organized network of consumers, anti-brand activists, bloggers, and opinion leaders in the news and entertainment media. Recently, Cambridge Analytica data mined 50 million Facebook users and created the fake news story to influence the voter to vote for a particular party. Hired by Brexit and Trump campaigners to influence voters decisions on their side. Cambridge Analytical created the doppelgänger brand imagery in the Indian elections through circulating fake news to the voters and were able to influence their perceptions. By analysing the Facebook users behaviour they used the information for psychographic targeting.

Though many blame technology and the popular social media like Google, Facebook and Twitter for making fake news a reality. Fake news can spread like wildfire on social networks because of confirmation bias. A confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias that involves favouring information, which confirms previously existing beliefs or biases. For example, people who think Modi is the best Prime minister India ever had, will not only seek information to support it, they will also interpret news stories in a way that upholds their existing ideas. Today people access information from many media sources and they apply their own filters for selective information seeking and circulation. For more than 150 years, newspapers controlled news and advertising markets, but digital technology has changed everything.

Fake news in the post-truth era is a reality. Post-truth, as defined by Oxford Dictionary, is “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion that appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

There are many ways people may create or circulate fake news. The most common is Impersonation, which means create a fictitious user ID on social media and plant fake news to mislead the people. Secondly, exploit people’s emotions to get a response. Thirdly, personally attack the brand in order to discredit their positive imagery. Fourthly, culture jamming through trolling by disrupting online messages and provoke reactions.
Beside Confirmation Bias to help explain our enduring susceptibility to fake news, naïve realism is another concept in social psychology, which is the human tendency to believe that we see the world around us objectively and that people who disagree with us must be uninformed, irrational, or biased. So it’s not surprising that when anyone talks against the policy of the current government, they are declared anti-nationals.

Fake news is a great example of culture jamming – a combination of ad. parodies, memes, hactivism, social & political activism, culture jamming attracts attention and generates a social and political debate. In this case, culture jamming is involved in media hoaxing such as the creation of fake news, which is presented as real news. Now, this fake news, in turn, influence people’s perception by creating a doppelgänger imagery. Doppelgänger Brand Image, comprising negative perceptions, create a compelling set of motifs that influence the perception of the target audience. The creation of this Doppelgänger Brand Image by creating and circulating fake news confuses people and make them make decisions based on the fake and not real facts. The more powerful the brand, more vulnerable to fake news attacks.

Well, they say don’t believe every news you come across on social media. According to a study by MIT, fake information spreads faster than real information on social media. The fake news that surprise and disgust people spread faster. The real question is how to spot fake news? It’s difficult to differentiate between “fake and real” news but it doesn’t mean that we should not try. Some suggestions are listed below:
1.    Check the source of information, search and authenticate the source and also verify the content through other sources.
2.    Headlines are deceptive, so go beyond the headline to unearth the complete story.
3.    Your confirmation biasness needs to be checked. So if you agree or disagree with information in few seconds then you are selective in processing information.
4.    Beware Memes are not news. So don’t take culture jams too seriously.
5.    Wikipedia is not an authentic source. Most of the content on social media is user-generated, therefore look for more empirically derived facts. So don’t rely too much on social media news.

Scott Adams (known for Dilbert Comic Strips) in his book “Win Bigly” makes a point that “we are not rational even 10% of the time. When it comes to our beliefs, perceptions, and actions, we are driven by “irrational” behaviour.” All fake news does is use media as a delivery vehicle to disseminate misinformation and position messages that stay in the consumers' mind. Scott further states that the divide between rational and irrational causes cognitive dissonance. The manufacturer of fake news intentionally mislead people in order to trigger a debate and people starts believing that whatever is trending in the media has to be true.

As Scott sums it up in this beautiful quote, “If you want to see the world more clearly, avoid joining a tribe. But if you are going to war, leave your clear thinking behind and join a tribe.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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news Doppelgänger Brand

Dr Gaurav Sood

The author is a brand communication professional, consultant and educator with two decade practice of creating strong brands

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