In the dog-eat-dog world that is business in the 21st century, having a unique selling point is crucial. Of course, all companies want to be able to lay claim to a continual flow of new customers. However, in many instances, retaining the ones they currently have is more than half the battle.
We are no longer living in an era where a customer will frequent the same dozen shops throughout the course of their life. Yes, perhaps 50 years ago consumers will have bought locally for everything they needed, from fruit and veg, to a new pair of sandals. But times have changed — the internet dominates the market. There is no denying that we are living in the age of the consumer. With thousands of options at their fingertips, browsing through a range of prices and quality is simple. Whilst perusing through the lines of stock online, customers are also able to take on board the various comments and reviews which have been posted about a company.
American columnist and thought leader, John Gerzema’ famously coined the phrase: “Transparency, honesty, kindness, good stewardship, even humour, work in businesses at all times”. Taking into consideration the first two points presented by Gerzema, ‘transparency’, and ‘honesty’ in this article, we look to understand why consumers appreciate truthfulness in regard to major companies. In a study conducted by Lansons Communications and Opinium Research, which examined the UK’s most trusted companies, it became apparent that half of the population don’t trust any companies at all.
Here, we e examine how important brand transparency really is.
How important is it to customers?
A 2016 study found that 73% of people would be willing to spend more on a product developed by a company who offered complete transparency. Furthermore, 78% argued that they seen brand transparency to be incredibly important.
Back in 1992, the Co-operative Food became the first UK supermarket to stock a Fairtrade product when it began to sell Cafedirect coffee. Now, almost 30 years later, the non-for profit organisation is assisting in the sale of more than 4,000 products in supermarkets across the country. It is helping to ensure that the workers involved in the production, packing, and distribution are receiving fair, and equal treatment for their services. Prior to the development of Fairtrade, much of the world did not have their eyes open to where their products where coming from, and what was involved in them getting there.
The Co-operative effectively held their hands up, admitting that many of the products they were stocking had unethical connections. As much as this may seem like a completely hazardous marketing strategy, outing all your wrongdoings in public, it aligns with the age-old theory of ‘it’s always better to tell the truth’.
As Fabrik suggests, ‘it’s no longer enough to whack on a shiny label in a bid to distract the customer’. They aren’t daft. Most recently drinks companies such as Innocent and Naked have performed well thanks to their straight-up, no frills, marketing campaigns. Their products clearly display what they entail, as opposed to making the customer negotiate paragraphs of size two font text in an attempt to understand the nutritional benefit of what’s in the bottle.
When mistakes happen, deal with it
When Elton John projected the lyrics “sorry seems to be the hardest word”, he wasn’t far from the truth. At the end of the day, it is natural for us to choke a bit when we have to apologise — it is the hardest pill to swallow! That said, nipping it in the bud early is the best course of action.
If you can preempt an event that is going to detriment a customer, explain it to them openly. Offer your most sincere apologies and detail the route you’re going to take to ensure that the issue is resolved and will not occur again. Everyone makes mistakes. However it is the way we handle them that will create a lasting impact on our reputation. Covering it up, or at least attempting to, will create an image of dishonesty, or perhaps make the customer feel as if you are completely unaware that the issue exists — making your company look incompetent.
Without a doubt, word of mouth exists as one of the main reasons for establishing a firm basis of trust between brand and customer. It may come as a shock to some businesses, but people communicate with one another. This is a double-edged sword as well, with positive and negative word of mouth having the ability to spread like wildfire. Treat a customer poorly and you can bet your bottom dollar that the internet, alongside every person they have crossed paths with since 1993, will know about it. However, admit your wrongdoing, offer them something to smile about, and you’ll soon discover that they will be raving about you in a rather flattering Facebook post.
Follow the example of transparency approaches from the likes of McDonald’s. The fast food giant came under scrutiny regarding the contents of their meals and whether they were healthy or not. Their share price took a hit and they had their backs against the wall. However, choosing to bare all and implement a policy of transparency proved reviving. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength. In business, put your customers first, and your pride second — it will pay off in the end.
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