How the Push for Transparency is Shaping Marketing

Back in 2008, we witnessed a global economic crash which shook the world. Plenty of us felt the impact personally whether that was through unemployment or lack of access to finance  – it was and still is real. Following the crash, pay gaps were exposed along with large corporates that were driven solely by profit.

This exposure bore an outbreak of mistrust for the ‘big boys’, the impersonal corporate firms in their ivory towers. In fact, distrust of large corporations is still at an all time high in the US with a recent survey showing only 36% see such organisations as a “source of hope.”

So, in a world where businesses are questioned more than ever, it’s important to open up and show transparency. Thankfully, social media and digital marketing in general are providing the perfect platforms for businesses to do just that. So, how is this changing the way we approach marketing you ask? Here’s a few examples.


1. Being ‘perfect’ and telling a one sided story doesn’t wash anymore

Wins, profits, gains – they’re great, but what about the other stuff? All businesses go through dry spells and make mistakes and consumers know this. Therefore, constantly tweeting and posting about the positive stuff will become tiresome and unrealistic. It’s important to show balance and acknowledge when times are testing.

Not to say that you should divulge in each and every mishap, but acknowledging them when appropriate makes your brand appear far more transparent. A cracking recent example is KFC’s supplier nightmare. Rather than pretending nothing happened and moving on, the fast food chain made a pun out of the mishap. The company took out ‘foul mouthed’ full page ads in the metro to acknowledge the chicken crisis – an action that has since been hailed as a ‘masterclass in PR crisis management.’


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Taking this kind of approach when s**t hits the fan will be seen in a far better light than simply covering things up and carrying on. In fact, it could even end up boosting your brand credibility. 


2. Using customer complaints for business insights

Many businesses are quick to condone the impact of negative reviews and social media posts. Yes, nobody wants them – they can cause a real headache and impact your image. However, every now and then businesses are going to get a disgruntled customer and it’s how they’re dealt with that matters.

US brand Wholefoods took advantage of social media to rectify a customer complaint with this simple exchange:

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Not only did the brand help to solve the customer issue, it also gained insight on a potentially popular product. By being active on social media, businesses are able to engage with consumers which can prove to be a useful way to gain insight.

Social media is the ideal place to interact with those customers and help to solve their problems. By showing that you care and want to help will, in most cases, satisfy the customer and turn their once negative opinion into a positive.


3. Employee transparency is important too

It’s important that all of your transparency efforts don’t just focus on your target market. Employees are key to success and when treated equally and fairly, can really help businesses to thrive.

Social media scheduling company, Buffer, lead the way with this by exposing staff salaries. This action was based on one of the brand’s core values “default to transparency” which is applied to every area of the business. Buffer has an open spreadsheet which shows each member of staff’s job role and salary. It also displays the formula the company uses to calculate salaries which is based on job type, seniority, experience and location.

This helps to increase employee satisfaction by showing a clear level of fairness and desire to be open. By trailblazing and leading the way with such honesty, Buffer is demonstrating how transparency is just as important for businesses internally.


4. Opening up behind the scenes

Over the years, plenty of companies have come under fire for their unethical practices. The brands that claimed to be above board and fair were stripped of such titles when misconduct was exposed. Consumers are wising up to this and prefer businesses that talk openly about their manufacturing or supply process.

Clothing brand Pantagonia does exactly this by exposing its supply chain for everyone to see. Using video, the company has developed a series called “Footprint Chronicles” which documents the manufacturing process. Showing footage from textile mills and and various stages of the production system online, the brand shows crystal clear transparency to its customers.

Imaginaire Digital MD, Seb Dean, has taken this path and made their linkbuilding process very specific for their SEO services. He discussed this in detail in a recent post via Agency Analytics: How To Create A Transparent Process For Linkbuilding Campaigns

To sum up

In this day and age, thanks to the intimacy of social media, showing transparency is more possible than ever. As a business, you have the means to show consumers who you really are and what you stand for. Taking advantage of this can really set you apart in a world where consumers are more switched on than ever before.

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