Transparent brands are in. Squishy or hidden agendas are out. Over the past few months alone, the popular 5-Hour Energy and Monster energy drinks have withered under regulatory investigations; several of the most trusted names in the natural food industry were revealed to be opponents of California’s Proposition 37, which tried to mandate the labeling of genetically-engineered foods; Instagram faced a widespread public backlash over proposed changes to its Terms of Service; Lance Armstrongadmitted to the doping scandal that ended his career . . . Can brands survive this ever-escalating level of scrutiny?
After all, transparency breeds trust, and that makes it a fundamental table stake today. It’s now imperative for CEOs and CMOs to build trust and transparency sooner rather than later because these days, consumers are in control. Every brand –across all sectors –must embrace transparency. Those that don’t will be risking their reputations, their competitive advantage and their sales.
How is your company working to build and maintain brand trust among today’s empowered consumers? I suggest you:
Align marketing with core values. When there’s a strong foundation in place and a direct correlation between this foundation and your overall marketing strategy, transparency isn’t an agenda item –it simply becomes intrinsic to all you do. I’ve long admired Patagonia for its unwavering commitment to an established set of core values (namely, making clothes with no unnecessary harm). Check out Patagonia’s Footprint Chroniclesto find out how the company uses transparency about its supply chain to help reduce any adverse social and environmental impacts.
Be consistent . . . and factual. Brands must maintain the same message across all platforms, both on- and off-line. Consistency inspires trust, and trust is the cornerstone of brand loyalty. Likewise, make it a point to use verifiable facts, not random, unsubstantiated claims. Today’s savvy consumers appreciate accuracy in information, and make no mistake about it: They will do their own homework and call you out if they feel you’re not “The Best Cheesecake in Town.”
Engage. Make sure you offer customers the opportunities and encouragement to engage. Keep in mind that once you do, you’ll have to accept allthe feedback that comes your way –whether it’s positive or negative.
Admit mistakes. Study after study has shown that the occasional negative comment can actually work in your favor. Not only does a one-star review offer the opportunity to turn a naysayer into a satisfied customer; it also gives you a chance to improve your product. Consumers don’t expect you to be perfect. But, they do expect you to be responsive.
What happens when you’re so transparent customers can see right through you? Success. Your good reputation stays intact. You enhance your competitive advantage. And you give yourself the best opportunity possible to drive sales and increases business revenues.