Who wouldn’t want to see Coke naked?
Recently during Advertising Week, I saw the documentary “The Naked Brand.” It refers to brands being transparent, open, real and just a little vulnerable. For the uninitiated, it is an introduction to the Age of Transparency.
With product ratings, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more created every day, brand transparency is not a choice. Our only choice is whether to fight it or embrace it. By embracing it, you could see growth and success beyond what you thought possible. If you fight it, you will only hurt your brand in the end. Here are four proof points illustrating what happens in the age of transparency:
1. Patagonia: The Truth Shall Set You Free
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is committed to selling quality, environmentally conscious products. But not all of Patagonia’s products are perfect. And Yvon knows it.
But rather than produce a sexy ad campaign showing mountains and streams that highlight only the good features of its products, Patagonia created a groundbreaking interactive site called The Footprint Chronicles. It enables users to see exactly where Patagonia’s products are made, how they are made and what they are made of. When users buy a product online, they can click the “Product Footprint” tab to see “The Good” and “The Bad” features of that product’s environmental footprint.
Did you read that? The site lists the good and the bad. It also includes Patagonia’s own reasoning and an open forum to discuss solutions with its customers. It’s not hidden or buried anywhere, but displayed as a prominent tab on the left side of every single product page. That takes guts. The results? Besides dramatically increasing sales (yes, increasing) and creating an even more loyal customer base, Patagonia now controls the conversation instead of being subject to it.
2. Crayola: Consumers Can Burst a Bubble
Watching the ads for the Crayola Outdoor Colored Bubble Launcher makes it look like an awesome toy for kids. Colored bubbles! Bubble gun! Endless outdoor fun! Parents are convinced their kids will love it. They go online. They find the item on Amazon. But just before they click “add to cart,” they see it. Users’ ratings: one star.
Only one star? How could that be? The realization comes after reading all the user ratings and seeing the truth. The bubble launcher is messy. It breaks after only a few minutes. The colors stain clothes and kids. It’s a huge disappointment.
People today have the absolute power to tell other people what they think of a company’s product, and they do, so it better be good. If not, those companies will be found out. All the clever marketing in the world can no longer hide a bad product.
3. Zappos: The Shoe Fits
Zappos continues to maintain some of the best-rated customer service around. Why? Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has made it his mission to make his employees as happy as his customers. Not because Hsieh is a nice guy (he is), but because having happy employees is good business, and he believes that their friendly, happy, quirky company culture is their most valuable asset: “Brand and culture are just two sides of the same coin. The brand is just a lagging indication of the culture. Now that everyone is hyperconnected and information travels so fast, the lag time between brand and culture is becoming less and less.”
Just do a YouTube search for “Zappos Employees” and you’ll see them in action. They love their jobs, and, as a result, they give great customer service, making a happier, more-likely-to-return customer. Makes me wish I could call Zappos customer service when my cable goes out.
4: When Pink Slime Attacks
Transparency can make good companies better. Some brands choose. Others are forced.
Consider the Nike sweatshops fiasco of the ’90s. Public outcry forced Nike to improve the conditions in its factories worldwide. We’ve seen that same sort of scenario played out again in 2012, but at a startlingly rapid rate. We know it as Pink Slime.
Pink slime occurs when sub-par beef scraps and connective tissue are mixed with ammonia to turn formerly inedible meat into edible ground beef. Gross. In March 2012, a single petition posted on change.org by an everyday mother started a movement. Social media and angry moms everywhere fueled this movement. Pink slime was removed from school cafeterias nationwide in only 10 days. A number of food store chains stopped selling it. Demand for it went down so dramatically that Beef Product Inc. shut down three of its four factories only three weeks after the beginning of the social media storm.
Yes, the time of shining a turd is over. The Age of Transparency is upon us, and you have only one choice: Try to survive transparency, or harness the power of it. People are going to expose your brand whether you like it or not. So you might as well work out a little so you look good naked.