Targeting consumers in a fake world

Read time 2min 50sec
Bronwyn Williams, trend translator and future finance specialist at Flux Trends.
Bronwyn Williams, trend translator and future finance specialist at Flux Trends.

The world may be moving to become a more technologically-oriented place but we are flesh and blood human beings and brands need to interact with us accordingly.

Invited to speak about consumer trends at the Huawei Developer Day in Cape Town last week, Bronwyn Williams, trend translator and future finance specialist at Flux Trends, discussed everything from deep fakes and digital clones, to robot trolls and virtual avatars.

“This showcases that what we see is not necessarily what we get. And the boundaries between what is real and what is fake have been blurred as humans are increasingly being cut out of advertising and marketing communications.”

All of this has caused a breakdown in trust. So much so that modern consumers, quite shockingly, have less trust in advertisers than we do in politicians, she added.

So, what does this mean for businesses?

According to Williams, as brands attempt to “hyper-target” consumers, they need to come up with creative, and often crazy, ways to take personalisation to the next level.

For example, at Walgreens, a US pharmacy and health and wellness store, it has facial recognition software in its fridges. When customers walk into these stores, the fridge will serve them adverts based on that particular consumer’s buying preferences.

Williams described another example of this hyper-personalisation, this time involving Mastercard, as being “not so nice”. If your credit or debit card is backed by Mastercard, you might be shocked to know it claims to have an algorithm that can determine how fat or skinny you are based on purchases.

The financial services company has also suggested it could sell this data to airlines so they can offer preferential pricing to customers who are not overweight. And consumers are none the wiser.


As brands incorporate behavioural economics and emotional marketing into their marketing strategies, a critical aspect of this is keeping an eye on the shifts in attention and consumer preferences.

This comes down to remembering the value of connecting with customers as human being in a real world. And in many instances, this can mean taking a step back from social media and the Internet.

Williams noted there has been a real movement towards what she dubs “slow tech”. As our lives become so busy and we’re constantly inundated with media all the time, podcasts are growing in popularity because a person can only really listen to one audio stream at a time, without dividing their attention.

It’s all very well to have data but this information is only useful to businesses if it is used to deliver the right products and services to the right people, at the right time and via the right channels.

With this in mind, Williams concluded with the quote from US author Seth Godin: “Most problems don't require more data. They require more insight, more innovation and better eyes. Information is what we call it when a human being takes data and turns it into a useful truth.”

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