Companies need to become transparent, like it or not. Given that companies today know that they are being talked about and reviewed openly, I would find this an encouraging sign that they will improve their products and services. But trust me – there is still a lot of crap out there.
The world today is very different than it was a generation ago. Back then there were fewer media channels and as a result, for marketers, the flow of information was therefore much easier to handle. To an extent, marketers still had control. It was also a time when consumers believed the marketing messages in ads and when many people believed in political propaganda (shock horror). Thankfully, today, we live in an age where consumer awareness has never been greater. In some ways, we live in a world where there are little secrets. Even “top secret” government information now seems to be open for the taking! With this sheer amount of information made available, consumers have better access to information than ever before about businesses and brands to make better informed decisions about who they want to buy from.
In this (transparent) world, the consumer is a watchdog, a critic. But when a brand truly partners with its customers, this consumer is also its champion and its collaborator. The astonishing fact is that companies still seem unable to connect the dots between consumer trust and brand reputation.
To me, being a transparent company is the new Brand. And transparency is fundamentally about trust. The lesson that I think companies need to understand is that they’re not going to be a conscious brand overnight. Consumers understand that as well. It’s about being transparent about the journey and taking one step at a time while being true to the Brand.
In order to achieve this, advertising has to evolve. Companies have to shift from saying they’re great to actually being great. The best companies are the ones that dictate the future, and not the ones that are trying to predict the future.
Below are 3 principles I fundamentally believe in for doing good business:
I. Honesty may just be the best policy.
“Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free” – Eckhart Tolle
The biggest misconception is that brand perfection is necessary before honesty is a valid brand strategy. Being honest does not mean being perfect – it simply means truthfully communicating the challenges being faced, and then putting in the legwork to address those challenges. You may believe that highlighting all the positive things about a brand will win consumers love but it turns out consumers also love it when brands show their true colours. It exposes the brand to “being human” – because it embraces its flaws and shows its true character, and nobody can fault that.
II. Authenticity, is keeping it real.
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to let our true selves be seen. – Brené Brown
In the book Brands in Glass Houses, it shines light on businesses that are revealing themselves authentically, not just as a marketing tactic, but also as a way of doing business. Companies should act with integrity – not superficially, but from the core truth. Brand values that companies uphold should not be something which comes out of a quick brainstorm, only to be printed in a smart font and filed away in a corporate archive. No. It should be about real stories, with emotional resonance. Stories that help consumers identify with the real character of the brand which stands the test of experience.
III. Responsibility, is to make the world a better place and not just taking from it.
The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better – Robert F. Kennedy
Sustainability is a core strategic competence for companies. Though being green is really important, it is not the be all, and end all. By putting societal purpose at the heart, a broader responsibility might be both a necessity for humanity and a successful way of driving business strategy. Nurturing a positive relationship with consumers is good for the company’s profitability and it creates a chain reaction where consumers ask if other companies are engaging in less than stellar business practices.
Finally, it is important to remember that transparency does not just help businesses become financially successful. It makes them good citizens. And good citizens never go out of business. Check out this documentary which was aired on Bloomberg TV – The Naked Brand – Future of Marketing.