Transparency In A New Light
Brand practitioners generally talk about transparency only when crisis hits the fan. There are text book examples of how to do it right, like Johnson & Johnson's deft management of the 1982 Tylenol poisoning episodes in Chicago. And then there are recent debacles: VW’s drawn-out admission of guilt, Samsung's self-combustion, and the Wells Fargo CEO's cringe-worthy testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. Reputation experts will tell you that transparency is the perfect antidote to crisis. But I'm here to tell you that transparency is not just for crisis control. It's fast becoming the new normal. In what Forrester has called the Age Of The Customer, a significant shift has occurred - away from institutions, and toward customers. This shift not only armed the consumer with much more information, but also created an expectation that brands share information more readily – information that may otherwise sit behind opaque corporate screens. Most of the brands are not there yet; many are still adjusting, often uncomfortably, to the vanishing asymmetry of information between brand and consumer.
For progressive CMOs, this lag between consumer expectation and brand delivery presents an opportunity to differentiate the brand. Proactively trumpeting transparent brands and giving customers the tools to benefit from this transparency can be a game changer and a source of advantage. Everlane, an online retailer of clothes and accessories, and Delta Airlines provide excellent examples of how to do this right.
Two Case Studies in Transparency