Every day, we hear that we are competing in the age of transparency. Search, social, and mobile technology have shifted power to consumers. Our branding and advertising efforts are not nearly as effective as they once were. But what does it truly mean to compete in the age of transparency? More importantly, what is our new role and how can we win?
As we've gone around the world presenting our documentary on this topic, "The Naked Brand," we've learned that there are actually two key misunderstandings about the transparency movement. Recognizing these misunderstandings will lead to a distinct competitive advantage.
The first issue is that brands are transparent, but they don't need to be so proactively. What this means is, if you create a crappy product or behave unethically, your audience will see right through your marketing and advertising. But what this doesn't mean is that you need to create a proactive platform all about transparency. While that's certainly nice, it's not mandatory.
Patagonia created "The Footprint Chronicles," an in-depth website that lets its shoppers analyze the entire supply chain and understand how the manufacturing process damages the environment. While this is a stunning and effective method, it doesn't mean that your brand needs to go out of its way to expose all of its weaknesses. What it means is that your brand needs to remove all of its weaknesses because they're already going to be exposed through social media, including ratings and reviews.
The action item isn't to use your creative resources to develop a transparent campaign. Rather, the goal is to use that same energy and turn inward to understand what about your behavior needs to change or improve. We need to recognize that the greatest brands in the world right now are improving people's lives. That doesn't mean that we all need to run out and save the manatees, but it means that we need to find an authentic way to do something meaningful. Apple empowers people through creativity. Under Armour empowers people by helping them become better athletes. Emirates Airlines empowers people by giving them a more comfortable flight experience. Tesla empowers people by pushing the bounds of technology.