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The transparency strategy: the power of honesty in your corporate marketing

March 2022 8 min read Written by Phil Owers

Strong relationships are built on trust.

This is as true for a brand and its customers as it is for couples, friendships and work colleagues.

More than ever before, consumers want assurances over the products they buy, the services they use, and the companies they engage with.

However, trust is fragile; it’s hard to gain, yet easy to lose. Brands must consistently work to earn the trust of their audience – if they do, they are rewarded with a loyal, devoted following who will regularly return and urge their friends, families and acquaintances to join them.April-A4-Article-visual-01

To reap the benefits of a trusting, committed fanbase, many companies are placing a firm focus on transparency. By maintaining open, honest communication with customers and the wider world, these brands are being rewarded with meaningful relationships with audiences across the globe.

What is transparency in corporate marketing?

While an increasing number of brands are familiar with the term 'corporate marketing', that doesn’t necessarily mean that they put it into action.

Brand transparency is more than a buzzword. It is an organisation opening itself up to all internal and external stakeholders. 

Especially since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a growing urgency among consumers for brands to enforce honesty above all else. At a time when “fake news” and misinformation is rife globally, customers understandably want to know as much as they can about the companies they engage with.

A transparent company discloses information on all aspects of its business, such as:

  • Company operations
  • Goals and KPIs
  • Core values
  • Product information and sourcing
  • Supply chain models
  • Working practices
  • Financial data
  • Pricing

The Consumer Good Forum outlines three elements of truly transparent brands:

  1. Corporate practice: The brand communicates its policies and performance.
  2. Product proof: The brand communicates the processes behind its products and services.
  3. Brand purpose: The brand communicates its mission statements, values and beliefs.

Even information that could be considered highly sensitive, such as a company’s environmental impact and sales figures, are made accessible to anybody who wants to know more about their brand. What was once purely confidential is now showcased for the world to see.

And although this “age of authenticity” is still developing globally, several brands are already making strides to be completely clear with their audiences… 

5 brands with transparency at their core

Patagonia

True leaders in brand transparency, clothing brand Patagonia’s ‘Footprint Chronicles’ tell customers exactly how it sources the raw materials for their products, and the conditions of the warehouses they are stored in. By placing its supply chain in the public eye, it is showing their customers that they can trust their working practices.

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Lush

Cosmetics company Lush translates transparency in a number of ways. From highlighting their policies and ethos throughout their company website, to sharing their products’ ingredient lists and results of their regular third-party audits, they communicate to their customers that they are a fair, ethical and cruelty-free manufacturer.

Buffer

Social media management platform Buffer believes transparency is crucial to the development of their brand. They achieve this in multiple ways, such as publishing each employee's pay rate by name (from founders to content writers), and making all internal emails accessible to their entire team.

Warby Parker

Eyewear brand Warby Parker is incredibly open with their customers and shareholders when it comes to its financial information. It publishes data that reinforces its commitment to donate a pair of frames for every four pairs sold, as well as the standards that it holds its suppliers to.

Ben & Jerry’s

Rather than present a boilerplate response to global events, ice cream giants Ben & Jerry’s are always upfront about their efforts to combat climate change. They have actively supported climate protests held worldwide, and produced advertising campaigns built around the steps they take to ensure the sustainability of their practices.

The benefits of being a transparent brand

With consumers increasingly wanting to know more about brands, from how they source their products to what societal issues they stand for, this trend of transparency shows no signs of slowing. On the contrary – continuing to stick to standard confidentiality could lead to brands developing a negative reputation.

Here are some of the ways that practising brand transparency can make a meaningful difference to your relationships with customers:

Gain consumer trust

First and foremost, in a landscape littered with misinformation, and where data breaches and privacy concerns are hot topics, brands that are authentic and transparent will really resonate with audiences. In a world that feels increasingly unreliable, these brands can be the trusting voice that modern customers need.

Trust inspires loyalty, and customer loyalty means repeat business that your brand can rely upon through thick and thin. Remember – acquiring a new customer can be five times more costly than retaining an existing customer.

Spur business growth

Access to a loyal, dedicated customer base offers a brand competitive advantage. When consumers are fully trusting of a company, they will be more on board if:

  • The price of products or services rises
  • New products or services are introduced
  • Former products or services are removed or replaced

If the company is transparent about the reasons for these shifts, it is much easier for customers to digest and continue to support the company, which can lead to further growth.

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Show evidence of CSR efforts

There is a rising expectation among consumers that the companies they engage with are committed to pursuing positive goals for their employees, customers and the world as a whole. 

If your brand is engaged in these efforts, being transparent about this helps demonstrate that you practice what you preach. There are few things more potentially damaging to a brand’s reputation than talking about the values you uphold, but failing to follow through.

This is particularly true when it comes to sustainability. In fact, the word “greenwashing” was devised to define brands that invest more time and money into marketing their sustainability than in actual corporate environmental efforts.

By focusing on transparency within your business, you can give your audiences complete reassurance that the values you promote are genuine. This will show them that your values are aligned, and make them more willing to engage with your brand.

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Elevate customer experiences

A customer experience covers every touchpoint between a customer and a company. From visiting their website or social media channels, to actively purchasing products at checkout, everything contributes to how consumers feel about your brand.

Brand transparency can improve these perceptions significantly. For example, if you are transparent about the pricing and manufacturing of your products, rather than leaving this shrouded in mystery, this helps customers feel more informed about whether it is right for them based on their budgets, needs and personal values.

This means that, even if that particular customer does not do business with your brand, this positive experience may encourage them to recommend you to friends or family members.

Recover reputation

When bad publicity rears its ugly head around your brand, it may feel natural to perform damage control in private and wait for everything to blow over. However, with mistrust among consumers at an all-time high, this activity could have a massive detriment on the trust that they have towards your brand. Now more than ever, they want brands to be accountable for their actions – good or bad.

By taking a transparent approach following a hit to your reputation – apologising for what happened, not making excuses and explaining how you intend to remedy the situation – this can reassure customers that you are taking ownership for what happened. This could help maintain the loyalty of many customers that may have walked away in other circumstances.

Take Ovo Energy as an example to follow. After an ill-thought-out blog post suggesting that people “cuddle their pets” to stay warm during the winter, they owned up to their poor judgement and created a rejuvenated article with more meaningful information for their customers.

Build employee engagement

Transparency doesn’t simply appeal to customers – it can also foster employee engagement and happiness. In a survey conducted by TINYpulse across 40,000 workers, transparency was named as the number one factor contributing to their overall happiness.

Whether it is making company-wide details more accessible to all employees through a newsletter or monthly meetings, or it is ensuring that working practices are made readily available to potential candidates, a more transparent approach to your employer brand can make a major difference to your ability to recruit and retain top talent.

Remember, happy, fulfilled employees are significantly more productive and engaged than unhappy employees.

3 tips to inspire brand transparency

1. Be honest and real in all communications

From an internal memo to customer-facing product descriptions, it is vital to ensure that everything communicated to your audiences is authentic and straightforward. Very little, if anything, should feel fabricated or illusory.

For instance, on the company pages of your website, don’t revert to stock images of happy workers. Instead, use shots of your real employees. When providing product information on your packaging, especially price, ensure this is accurate and verifiable. Integrating your content production with your PIM and ERP systems through BAM by Papirfly™ can be a useful way to maintain this accuracy.

Consider Everlane’s “radical transparency”. The online retailer incorporates the name of the factory a product was produced on their descriptions, with a link sharing information and images of the factory itself. This removes any concerns customers may have about unethical manufacturing processes.

2. Develop transparency webpages

If you are keen to make customers aware of the quality of your practices and products, or how you are following through on the causes that you promote as a company, create dedicated pages within your website to showcase this information.

For example, clothing company H&M include a page on their website outlining the sustainability of their supply chain, with facts and figures illustrating their clear commitment to this. This openness surrounding their approach reassures customers that they are truly focused on making sure they are ethical and sustainable in everything they do.

3. Promote honest feedback

Both customers and employees will ask tough questions about brands, and it is crucial that you do not shy away from these. Instead, you should welcome them, sending surveys and questionnaires to your audiences to gauge their thoughts on your company.

Even negative feedback can be positive in the long-run. If a customer or employee identifies an area that can be improved, being transparent about taking this feedback on board and the steps you will take to address this can illustrate to everyone that you listen and respond.

This approach will naturally garner people’s trust, and indicate that you are a brand that learns from and grows following missteps – this will help ensure they remain loyal even through testing times.

Keep your brand consistent with BAM

The power of transparency and honesty is something that brands cannot afford to overlook in today’s landscape. We hope that this has informed you of the positive difference that this outlook can have on all aspects of your business, so you are better prepared to adopt it in your organisation moving forward.

But, building true transparency is not a one-and-done. It needs to be applied continuously and consistently within your company. Especially if you are transitioning from a more confidential approach, it will take time and effort to make customers, employees and others aware that transparency is now your default – and you’ll be rewarded with a more loyal, more resilient fanbase than ever.

Consistency is at the core of BAM by Papirfly™. Our software empowers your marketing teams to produce perfectly branded content at all times, ensuring that wherever you communicate with your customers, it will carry your unique identity. No deviation. No misinterpretation.

  • Fully bespoke templates lock down the core aspects of your branding, with set design, text and database parameters
  • All brand guidelines, training videos and assets are accessible company-wide through a single online location
  • Your employees gain the tools for total autonomy, where they can create materials in minutes without design expertise or experience

Discover the full benefits of BAM today – arrange your personal demo, or get in touch with our team for more details.

by Phil Owers
CEO
Linked In profile Linked In

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