Gone are the days of cheap marketing tricks and ploys. Consumers are smarter than ever. They’ve seen it all before. And with the rise of the digital world, it’s even easier for consumers to publically call out brands with misleading marketing strategies.
What consumers are now looking for is transparency.
Here are some example of “transparent” marketing tactics:
- Cost breakdowns of items - Everlane are masters at this!
- Open tools such as Trello to give people a peek inside your processes
- Clothing fit guides based on customer’s dimensions
- Lists that show management salaries
- Statistics around gender, race and sexuality ratios in your company
- All-inclusive prices (forget those add-ons at the checkout)
- Genuinely free shipping! Not just on the third Thursday of every other month after a blue moon
- Tracking systems like Uber Eats, so you can see your pizza being shuttled towards you in real-time
- Sharing negative feedback and demonstrating how you’ve responded to it and the changes you’ve made for the sake of your customers
But without a transparent mindset forming the foundation of your entire company, simply implementing one or two of these surface-level tactics is going to fall flat.
The following three strategies are great examples of using transparency to shape and inform your marketing activity.
Lift the lid on sustainability and ethics
More than ever before, consumers are concerned about where the products they use are coming from. 49% of consumers under the age of 24 have avoided using a product because of its negative impact on the environment.
And if those consumers can’t tell where something came from, who made it, or its impact on the environment, they often won’t run the risk and will head to a competitor instead.
So lift the lid on your supply chain. Hold yourself accountable, but allow your customers to hold you accountable to. And don’t do it just for the social media clout. If you want to make sustainability a key part of your marketing strategy, you have to also make it a core value of your business.
The only thing worse than a poor sustainability record is trying to cover it up with “faux-care”.
Owning up to mistakes or shortcomings
If a brand owns up to its shortcomings and actively says “I know we can do better”, then that’s excellent transparent marketing. Rather than pretending that everything is fine and dandy, explicitly pointing out your shortcomings and outlining a step-by-step process as to how you want to improve is a great step towards becoming more transparent.
For example, if your brand has been sourcing ethically produced materials to increase the sustainability of your products, look at what you want the next step to be. It might be finding local factories to cut down on shipping miles, or you might want to incentivise your employees to cycle to work instead of driving. Whatever it is, set an achievable timeline and a solid milestone - then tell your customers what you’re working towards.
Don’t wait for everything to be in place to start talking about it!
Treat employees respectfully and make them true brand ambassadors
In our digital world, our employees are more visible than ever. On LinkedIn, they represent your brand every time they comment on a post, write an article or share an update. With websites such as Glassdoor, they can review how they’ve been treated and the company culture. And on Twitter, all hell can break loose in 240 characters.
So think about how you treat your employees, because they’re the best brand ambassadors you’ve got.
Encourage a culture of transparency amongst your employees. Give them the tools that they need to talk about your brand in the right way, at the right time and on the right platforms. Demonstrate that you trust them and they’ll naturally become comfortable with sharing the inner workings of your company.
And nothing comes across as more authentic or transparent as true employee testimonies. Just don’t go down the made route that Amazon did, and create a mini-army of “brand ambassadors” who could not have sounded more like bots if they tried.
But remember the catch: if you want your marketing to be transparent, you have to commit your brand to being better and fulfilling those promises and overhaul your strategy from start to finish.
Hollow promises and one-off “transparency” campaigns that don’t make up part of a huge cultural shift towards a better, more transparent culture will do more harm than good.
How can your brand be transparent during the COVID-19 outbreak?
For marketers, this is a great time to pause and take stock of your existing marketing strategy. Much of what you had planned will likely be paused, rescheduled or scrapped completely. So if you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to overhaul your tactics - this is it!
Do a complete review of your existing strategy. Are there any areas where you can begin to increase transparency? Can you make pricing breakdowns clearer? Do you have FAQs and content on your site that explains what you’re doing behind-the-scenes? Are there employees who would be willing to share their expertise with your audience?
Reduced budgets and economic uncertainty makes for challenging marketing. But there’s also huge opportunity to take this moment to rebuild and refresh the brand that you want your customers to come back to in a few months.