There is no doubt that the advertising world is in constant change. The ever advancing digital world has not only changed the industry’s use of mediums, but it has changed the way in which consumers approach and perceive brands. Generation Y continues to step into the adult world equipped with our “pragmatic idealist” mindset, though our confidence in corporations has taken a bit of a beating. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that public trust in big business has worn out over time.
The times they are a changing. Corporations are now a part of the connected digital world, and if they aren’t – they’re probably already forgotten. Being a brand in today’s world means being up to date and in constant communication with consumers. And what is it that today’s consumer is looking for? Brand transparency. PR company Edelman found that 90% of responders want corporations to be as transparent as possible in a survey of 11,000 people across eight countries. Surprised? Me neither. The digital age has allowed consumers to – for the most part – cut through the bullsh*t. Now we are able to access information towards a company’s products, values, ethics, standards, etc. Today’s consumer business’ are not only judged by what products they sell or what they say, but they are judged by how they act, their purpose and what they stand for. Transparency can make a good company become great. Some brands choose, others may be forced. It wasn’t too long ago that Nike was publicly shamed for it’s sweatshop practices to the point where it damaged the company’s image and they were forced to improve factory conditions worldwide. Now Nike posts its corporate responsibility reports online.
Now let’s take a look at McDonald’s. A huge, recognized company that has restaurants around the world, employing over a million people globally with a product that may make you question if it serves more than just a surge of dopamine to the brain. And with their “Our Food. Your Questions.” campaign, McDonald’s tries to answer just that. This campaign takes their brand to a more humanistic level as consumers are able to ask the company questions directly on their website about food, content, quality, sourcing, safety standards, etc. and McD’s promises to answer honestly. Pretty ballsy move, but a step in the right direction. What McDonald’s realizes, is that trust and reputation are fundamental towards building and maintaing a brand, and the key to a successful consumer business is brand trust and loyalty.
Advertising agency, Questus, produced a documentary called The Naked Brand, which really hits the nail on the head. In an interview with sustainablebrands.com, writer and director, Jeff Rosenblum says the goal for the film is to “fundamentally change the advertising industry, and [he thinks] a byproduct of that is fundamentally changing corporate behaviour.” Rosenblum believes “when you start moving the planet forward, you as a corporation can make more money. And that doesn’t sound as nice as ‘you should behave better because it’s the right thing to do,’ but I think it’s more of a sustainable business practice. Corporations are here to make more money, not save the planet. So we really want to get that out — that this is a great path to profitability.” There’s the golden ticket. A sustainable business practice and a great path to profitability. Consumers and companies can both benefit. No tricks, no gimmicks, just truth.
The brand Patagonia is probably one of the more extreme brands on the transparency spectrum. They are committed to making the best products they can, and that’s their pledge to you. Not only that, but they intend to do so by making that product without any unnecessary harm to the environment. They have a program called the Footprint Chronicles that restores a relationship between the brand and it’s customers. Customers can find the origin of where their jacket came from, going all the way back to the farm the cotton was grown, to the warehouse the product ends up. What is so refreshing about this program is that it not only focuses on what makes their product great, but it also discusses what it is about their products that is not so great. In an interview with Fast Company, Rick Ridgeway, the VP for Environmental initiatives at Patagonia, explains. “We’ll tell you how cool it is that this is all made from water bottles. We’ll be able to tell you that when it’s all worn out you can bring it back for us to recycle. We’ll tell you how it sucks to make this thing in China and ship it clear across the ocean. That’s not so cool. What can we do better? With every story you get to hear both the good and the bad.” Aaah, total transparency. Now that’s a core value I can get behind. Maybe it’s time for companies to step up and be the best, instead of just saying it.
So. Does brand transparency affect your decision to buy? Does it earn your loyalty? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!