While the expectation of transparency in the world of business is being driven by the demands of stakeholders for accountability, we live in an increasingly transparent world. Today, consumers can comment on any brand in any way they choose on websites that range from a few brand-sponsored sites to countless blogs by private citizens with an intense connection to a cause, a brand or any other topic. The explosion of social media has not just fragmented media, it has shattered it and given control of it to the people who vote with their wallets.
The old saying used to be if someone liked your product, they told three people, but if they didn’t like it, they told 3,000. In the age of social media, make that 3 billion. This speaks to the importance of brand authenticity. To be viewed as “authentic,” brands and the products they represent must behave authentically. This affects everything from front of-pack labeling to COOL (country of origin labeling) to claims about sustainability and even a brand’s positioning.
Today’s consumers have more information than ever at their fingertips. “Disconnects” in a brand’s image become more readily apparent. Even the business practices of the companies that own these brands are under greater scrutiny, not just by governmental agencies but by a more “powerful” group – consumers.
Now more than ever, at a time when connecting with consumers is an increasingly complex proposition, transparency equals trust. Striking just the right balance between managing for brand authenticity and accommodating transparency while ceding some communication control to consumers – this is just one of the many complex new challenges facing brands today.