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Building Trust in the Digital Era: Strategies for Authentic Brand Experiences

Written by: Myrtle Bautista

Trust is one of the most valuable resources in the digital era. With so much misinformation and manipulation on social media, many consumers have grown wary of brands.  It’s a common story for a brand to champion some cause or promise some feature, only to contradict themselves later, and spark major controversy.  Such cases will continue for as long as unethical brands think they can get away with it.

However, trust only goes so far. Even the biggest corporations balk at the idea of breaking consumer trust so openly, especially with buyers being more curious about businesses every year. A brand’s reputation must stay consistent from face-to-face interactions to online accounts.  Thankfully, organizations have several ways of cultivating authentic brand experiences in the digital space.

Strategies for Authentic Brand Experience

Now that you understand the difficulties of digital branding, you’re better equipped to try out strategies for building trust in the digital space. Above all else, authenticity comes from human touch, so keep that in mind while brainstorming your next brand campaign:

Augmented Reality Games (ARG)

Who said brands had to choose between real life and digital? The best answer is combining both, and ARGs fit the bill perfectly.  Augmented Reality Games (ARG) offer a unique and interactive way to engage with your audience. These games blend physical and virtual experiences into one cohesive, immersive adventure. 

For example, let’s take a look at the video game Halo 2’s “I Love Bees” ARG in 2004. In the game’s first-ever trailer, eagle-eyed viewers could catch a hidden message, which led them to a long series of puzzles. The framing device for the ARG put the player in the role of a hacker uncovering the mystery of a crashed ship.   With each solved puzzle, the players were rewarded with a brand-new piece of lore, whether through journal writings, codex entries, or audio logs.

The “I Love Bees” ARG continued for three whole months, with the site garnering hundreds of thousands of visitors every time the game updated.  At the game’s end, players got a glimpse of a major event in Halo 2’s story.  Bungie received dozens of awards for this promotional event and to this day, is beloved by fans of the franchise.

Now why did this work so well? Because the gamers played a part in the series’ narrative.  It felt authentic because they could see their actions affecting the “digital” world’s story.  Gamifiying marketing makes people naturally inclined to engage with your brand’s goals.  The mystery always makes the answer feel even more epic.  Storytelling will always captivate fans,  and ARGs are the perfect vehicle for such stories. 

Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla marketing involves unconventional and creative marketing tactics that generate buzz and capture attention in unexpected ways. While ARG is one way to do that,  other methods of incorporating real-world elements into digital marketing schemes exist. 

One of the most extravagant examples of guerilla marketing in recent history came from Red Bull, when Felix Baumgartner jumped from space all the way down to the Earth. While it’s unlikely the average customer will be jumping from space anytime soon, the message was clear. Red Bull’s energy drink is the most extreme out there, and if somebody tried to correct that, they’d have to jump from space too. 

Other examples include flash mobs, street art, or custom exhibits that allow you to showcase your brand’s unique message and values. These tactics further humanize your brand by the simple virtue of being in the real world. Whether that’s a crazy stunt or a beautiful exhibit, never underestimate the tactile advantage of a face-to-face marketing gimmick. The digital aspect comes from posting these programs and events on social media, where they may spread even more through word-of-mouth. 


Don’t limit your marketing to internal teams. Let the customers participate in spreading the word about your product by encouraging them to post about their experiences.  Attach a hashtag to your posts and let customers associate these tags with their wholesome brand stories.  

Oreo showcased the power of social media with its “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark” post, in response to an unexpected blackout during a big football game. The post was retweeted and shared across multiple platforms, with many Oreo fans sharing their own experiences with the blackout and praising Oreo’s wit. 

The brand was timely, witty, and most important of all, relatable. Sharing their stories on your social media platforms not only showcases real customer experiences but also demonstrates that you value their voices.  If nothing else, it’s free publicity. 

Final Thoughts

Even in the digital space, customers will always find value in human interaction. The tactile vibes of a real human being, whether through the beautifully crafted guerilla events or a polite customer service agent.  Never forget to prioritize the customer’s wants and needs above the bottom line. Ultimately,  short-term metrics can’t beat long-term loyalty. 

Now that you understand the difficulties of digital branding, you’re better equipped to try out strategies for building trust in the digital space. Above all else, authenticity comes from human touch, so keep that in mind while brainstorming your next brand campaign:
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