Trust in society today is at a low point, yet, consumers still expect brands to know them and cater to them, according to one of the newly-released predictions by global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen.

Every issue pertaining to truth and transparency cannot be solved with privacy legislation, according to Nielsen. Big brands will have to confront and counteract the consequences of social network attacks, such as the growing use of AI-based deepfake technology to destroy a brand’s credibility. Deepfake distorts what is real and what is fake—and there needs to be constant vigilance from brands to counteract these efforts, advised Arun Ramaswamy, chief technology officer of Global Connect, at Nielsen, which released its predictions for technology, consumer packaged goods and retail for 2020 and the next decade, at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2019 in Orlando, FL last week.

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“The true effects and risks remain to be seen, but they will only increase as the technology enhances,” he noted.

How brands can increase consumer trust

Both businesses and consumers must fight off attempts to undermine trust and misinformation and work toward maintaining privacy, the company says. To strengthen the trust economy, companies must be fully transparent in how they’re collecting and using consumer data. There also needs to be a shift in focus in using the right data, Ramaswamy said.

Concerns over privacy and the threat to brand credibility are not much of a surprise, observed Nader Henein, a senior research director at Gartner.

“We saw the impact of misinformation in political campaigns—the difference there is that time is a factor and emotions run high, Henein said. “With brands, it’s a fairly different dynamic. Situations where time is a factor are few, and emotional attachment to a brand, though evident, is not so strong to illicit strong responses.”

That said, however, Henein added that public opinion swings both ways, and organizations concerned about becoming a target of misinformation campaigns “should be prepared…to mount an offensive.”

Ramaswamy echoed this. “In addition to strengthening one’s cyberdefenses, organizations must know that anything they do…can be made public at any time—providing an even stronger impetus to be following sound business practices,” he said.

So not surprisingly, Nielsen is also predicting that transparency will be tomorrow’s brand currency. Brands in every vertical industry have an opportunity to promote a ‘healthy for me & healthy for we” expectation consumers are demanding.

Interest in what was previously considered behind-the-scenes information about a company’s operational footprint will become mainstream topics of conversation, Nielsen predicts. This should prompt companies across all industries to work on growing trust and authenticity while delivering on the need for urgent action on climate change, the company advises.

Successful sustainability strategies include everything from social responsibility to recyclable packaging and getting specific with consumers about these efforts. This will help increase consumer trust in brands that can deliver, Ramaswamy said.

The need for brands to foster better trust and authenticity also aligns with Gartner CPG research, Henein said.

“We advocate that privacy is becoming a ‘conviction based-motivator,'” which are things like ‘organic’ and ‘cruelty-free,’ he said. While a decade ago, products in those categories demanded a premium and were only offered by specialty outlets, today, large multinationals have adopted these conviction-based motivators across their own products as well as their supply chain.

“Much like organic foods or cruelty-free cosmetics, ‘privacy-preserving’ capabilities or companies that have adopted ‘privacy-first’ policies are the latest in conviction-based motivators,” he said. “Simply put, customers today are inclined more than ever to cross the road over to the competition and in some cases, pay a premium—if that is where they believe their personal data will be best cared for.”

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Seeking better security in the supply chain

CPG and retail supply chains are historically complex , but security is becoming even more challenging as retailers and brands are frequently utilizing IoT sensors and analytics. An increasing number of endpoints is enabling more interactions with customer data, but this creates greater opportunity for threats like malware.

With automation, blockchain and enhanced analytics, there is significant opportunity for improvement in the supply chain, Ramaswamy said.

“Retailers and manufacturers alike are more driven than ever to understand and own the supply chain from beginning to end — and with that shift in mentality comes a shift to more granular, end-to-end supply chain analytics.” This granularity includes visibility into data ranging from what materials are bought to what is manufactured when and how much exists in the warehouses, Ramaswamy said. “In the hands of all relevant parties, supply chain security will continue to become more robust.”

Brands are increasingly considering using blockchain technology in their food safety initiatives, he added. Blockchain prevents a single central authority from being in the critical path and attacked.

“Additionally, brands are investing in new security protocols and encryption of data both at rest and in transit—in endpoints and the cloud,” Ramaswamy said. “And in the event of a breach, companies are designing their systems to reduce their footprint of damage.”

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