Transparency is one of marketing’s latest buzzwords, but it’s not just a trendy term, and it needs to apply to much more than just your marketing. Shoppers of all types are more cautious of brands and marketing claims than they used to be. The only way to combat this skepticism and produce messaging authentic enough to spur success is proactive transparency.
The Impact of Transparency
In an era powered by search at your fingertips, shoppers will do their own research to ensure brands meet their social, environmental, and health values. This bears a real reflection in brand success and the potential for growth.
By the Numbers
Many shoppers (65%) think it’s important to know how their food is produced, yet the sentiment of 62% is that brands don’t provide enough information to make smart purchase decisions. The result? Only 12% “wholeheartedly” trust the quality and safety of their food. On the other hand, providing that information in a way that’s easily accessible offers astounding benefits. Let’s break it down:
- 91% will fact-check claims (e.g., healthy, nutritious) by examining the nutrition labels or heading to third-party information sites.
- 39% would switch to a new brand if it showed full product transparency.
- 81% would try a brand’s entire portfolio of products if it offers transparency.
- 56% would trust a brand more if it shared additional information about sourcing, handling, and production.
- 73% would pay more for products from a brand that’s transparent across attributes.
- 94% would be more loyal to a brand that’s completely transparent.
- 56% would be loyal for life if the brand is completely transparent.
Transparency to Break Out: Bai
Surveys are one thing, but real life examples speak to the facts more clearly. The beverage company, Bai, was one of the first two startups to be named in Nielsen’s 2016 list of brands that achieved breakthrough innovations. To make the list, they have to offer a new value proposition, prove relevance with $50 million in sales in the U.S., and retain 90% of those sales in year two. This challenger took on soft drink companies and won its spot on the list by listening to shoppers and showing full transparency about its ingredients online.
Transparency to Engage: Patagonia
Patagonia is an outerwear company committed to transparency in its supply chain so that shoppers understand their greater commitment to being environmentally responsible. They offer an engaging series of videos for each product sold online called “Footprint Chronicles,” which show each step in the supply chain, including the mills and factories used in production. Furthermore, Patagonia actively admits that there could be improvement, and asks shoppers to submit ideas.
Transparency to Inspire Trust Despite Failure: charity:water
In the past, failures would represent a PR catastrophe that could tear down a company or organization. Now, however, transparency can turn failure into something that makes individuals more invested in that organization. The clean drinking water organization charity:water hosts live videos of well digging for its fundraisers. One year, the drilling in a Central African village turned up no water. This could have meant fundraising failure — after all, it looks like they’d be funding a program that doesn’t work. Instead, responses were overwhelmingly positive, and the organization went back later to successfully drill the well.
Transparency to Inform Authentic Marketing: Unilever / Hellmann’s
In the process of developing information for their SmartLabel, Hellmann’s team uncovered the fact that one of mayonnaise’s foundational ingredients, soybeans, are grown from a specific handful of family farms in Iowa. Suddenly, the marketing team had new, hearty and authentic stories to tell about Hellmann’s place in the Americana of sandwiches made for bagged lunches and picnics. In developing their transparency, Hellmann’s stumbled onto exactly the kind of story shoppers want to hear.
Tactical Tips To Be Transparent
Transparency and authenticity don’t come easy to retailers and CPG companies, especially when there’s proprietary data involved. These tips will help you start the journey in the right direction.
1. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.
Authenticity isn’t just about stating the facts. What you say and do has to feel honest, and that requires having your company’s statements and actions be in alignment with each other. Transparency comes when you can prove that’s the case, even when it’s imperfect. That can feel risky, especially if your company has become tightly focused on short-term financial goals. But, it builds a shopper base and earns loyalty.
2. Connect to Shoppers through Stories.
Honesty also refers to a lot more than just disclosing the details about your ingredients or materials. It should be the core of your branding. Share stories about your company’s origins, the interests and ideas that built the company, and what you’re passionate about. Show what it’s like behind the scenes, but don’t allow it to be abstract. It needs to feel real to your shoppers.
3. Make Transparency a Pillar for More than Marketing.
Transparency throughout your business has benefits as well. Consider Ben & Jerry’s, which opens their factory to tours. Consumers can get an insider’s view of production, raising the level of trust they have in the brand. It invites shoppers to see the quality of ingredients and the process that develops their favorite flavors and demonstrates that the company has nothing to hide.
4. Utilize Smart Packaging.
Make information about your company and products easy to find and access, which means more than just housing it on your website. Take advantage of tools like SmartLabel, an initiative spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Assocation (GMA), which allows shoppers to scan a code on a product’s packaging to view additional information that can provide a richer understanding of the brand. Unilever added SmartLabel to brand products like Hellmann’s mayonnaise in order to enhance their Sustainable Living initiative. It allows them to be transparent about things that could never fit on the package, like ingredient sourcing and sustainable practices.
Transparency and authenticity are no longer just good ideas or best practices. They’re necessary for engaging and winning shoppers that educate themselves on the products, ingredients, and materials they want to choose for themselves and their families. Shoppers want to do business with brands that say what they mean and do what they say. Deploying these tips will help you develop the kind of transparency that delivers success.