Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Branding: What Does Transparency Mean, Anyway?

I have been in quite a few Twitter chats lately either focused on “transparency” for brands, or where the idea of transparency has come up. More often than not, I have watched people struggle with the meaning behind this term. While transparency for branding is not a new idea by any means, social media has done a great job, especially lately, in forcing brands to embody transparency and show a bit more of who they are, and how much they share authentically with their communities.

Who do we buy from? I’m willing to bet that 100% of the time, we buy from people and companies that we trust. I highly doubt that you would buy from someone that you have heard conducts bad business, or from a company known to cheat people. Trust is what businesses are built on, and what leads to engaged consumers that become repeat buyers. Transparency allows consumers to begin to get to know companies a bit more deeply, and if they believe in what they are coming to know, trust has already begun to form with that brand.

So what is transparency? Is it letting the public know what the CEO of the company is being paid, or trade secrets that make up the “special sauce” of each of the brands products? No. There is still a line between transparency and giving out classified info, and smart consumers know this. They know there are certain things that are solely between the stakeholders and founders, while there are is increasingly more that they CAN let the public “in on. When brands first began tweeting, we didn’t know who was sitting at their computer typing out the tweets. Today we do get to know the “face behind the brand,” and brand messages aren’t just about what the company is offering. Today we get to know how the employees of the brand spend their free time, and why they like their job at that company (and sadly for some brands, as we’ve seen, why some employees absolutely hate their jobs and are simply there for a paycheck). It makes it easier today to support brands you believe in, not just because they make a good product, but because they’re also a good company. Transparency can often make the difference between us choosing one brand over another, when they both have nearly identical products and price points.

 How does a brand learn to open up a little more and let a bit more of their teams personalities show through to their community?

·        Tell the truth: transparent brands admit when they’ve made a mistake, or sent out an errant tweet, or put out a marketing campaign that has missed the mark. They don’t ignore it, or delete it, or hope it just goes away. They own up to their mistakes and let their audience know how they will go about fixing the error and changing for the future. Oftentimes what may seem like a mistake that will cost them their business, can be easily forgiven by how well they recover and transparently engage with their community on what went wrong and what they will do to fix it.

·        Engage with open communication: Transparent brands don’t send out broadcasts all day, but rather they take the time to respond to tweets and messages people are sending to them. They make themselves available, even if it’s not on whatever editorial calendar they are working from. They pivot and change and adapt to what the community is asking for and letting the brand know they need, and they do their best to give those answers or resources to their audience.

·        Be a source for your community/consumers: By honestly listening to what your community is asking for and being in the right places where they are talking about what they need, brands are then able to give that information to them. If brands can openly and honestly discuss their corporate identity, their policies and their values, consumers can further realize they can trust this brand to focus on their needs, and help with their decision-making. Employees in a transparent company are accessible and there to truly help their community.

In this “digital age,” transparency helps keeps companies accountable. With more eyes than ever watching a brands every move on social media, “truth will out” faster than it ever has before. HOW a company does things is more important than WHAT it does, today.

It continues to be increasingly apparent that people trust recommendations from people they know more than any other form of marketing such as advertisements. Our trust increases when we see and believe in the transparency of a brand.

Why is every company not transparent? Are companies scared to be too transparent? I believe companies should be more scared NOT to be.
What are your thoughts? What brands do you see "doing transparency right?" Tweet me @lucyrk78 and let me know!


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