Brands, Trust and the Transparency Revolution

What do brands, trust and transparency have in common? They have all become very important. And when combined, well, there it is, your perfect formula for success. Trust and transparency in the branding context are the focus of a recent article by the Branding Strategy Insider, a service of The Blake Project with daily insights on brands and branding.

Here are some of the key points of the article by Mark Di Somma, New Zealand-based creative strategist and writer:

About responsible advertising, brands, transparency and truthDisregard for Boundaries of Responsible Advertising

“The obsession with short-term growth coupled with natural competitiveness and the intensity of competitors come together to motivate brands to disregard the boundaries of responsible advertising. Every brand owner wants to be proud of the product they are responsible for. For some, the temptation to overplay what they are in charge of is too great. Initial consumer reactions to these hollow brands encourage the mindset and the behavior.”

“Shoppers are naturally drawn to things that seem too good to be true despite all the warnings for them not to do so. So, brands see that they are making money through refinansiering av forbrukslaan. They repeat a statement, and sales go up again. And on it goes.”

“In time, and with success mounting and sales hitting targets, companies tell themselves that such behaviors are okay; that they are worth it. Brands will even justify the “shortcuts” they take on the grounds that it’s what they have to do; their customers “demand” it. They reach a point of what feels like no return.”

“As with people, when the repercussions of coming clean (media attention, recalls, legal action) appear to outweigh the benefits of continuing (incentives, rewards, bonuses, promotions), companies and individuals can easily default to what seems to be an easier and more comfortable future. They may even have talked themselves into believing that they are telling the truth.”

“It goes without saying that hollow claims hurt brands when they are unearthed. Suddenly, a brand isn’t just questionable, it’s also vulnerable (in terms of reputation) and potentially liable (legally). The repercussions are not new. What has changed in the last ten years is the likelihood of being discovered.”

Brand Accountability and the New Era of Scrutiny

“Brand accountability has entered a new era of scrutiny – and that is shifting the risk to return profile for hollow brands. Search engines, reviews and social media have fueled what Bono has referred to as the “Transparency Revolution”. Not only is this exposing bad business practices, it is also correcting the information asymmetry that has encouraged brands to push unreasonable claims and/or to align in self-interested ways that are hidden from consumers.”

“As Michael Lazerow explains in this interview, the Internet of Things is being replaced by the Internet of Customers. ‘We are in the midst of a trust revolution where everything is transparent.'”

The Bottom Line

“Every brand must make a profit. No dispute there. What’s new is that profit is increasingly answerable to a widening set of ethical criteria. Brands that look to keep information back, that re-touch their claims to make them look more appealing and/or who fail to align margin to value will find their products under public gaze and themselves under increasing pressure to retract.”

Accountable profits: “The next era of challenges for brands it seems to me lies in ‘accountable profits’: in explaining to consumers that the returns that the company is making from what it puts on the shelf are reasonable, sustainable, prove-able and responsible. Some are going to find that very hard indeed.” Read the whole story on

Featured image by Geralt, (creative commons)

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