“When price and availability are no longer sufficient advantages (because everything is available and the price is no longer news), then what we are drawn to is the vulnerability and transparency that bring us together, that turn the “other” into one of us….The people you seek to lead, the people who are helping to define the next thing and the interesting frontier, these people want your humanity, not your discounts.” These words from marketing legend Seth Godin highlight the fact that there is a fundamental disconnect between the way we have historically built and marketed our businesses and what our customers truly care about. As a result, most businesses are lost in a sea of sameness, spending money on advertising that doesn’t resonate and messages that will never connect.
To overcome this disconnect, our customers must trust us more, find us to be the most credible option to ensure we are sufficiently differentiated and elevated from the competition.
Here are four ways to improve your brand’s credibility and trust:
In her landmark book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown, a renowned expert on vulnerability, defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. When Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams discovered Listeria in their production facility, they didn’t hide the fact, they didn’t play it down and they didn’t take any chances when it came to removing the risk. This vulnerability allowed their community and customers to rally around them and cheer for their return. As humans, we seek out not just the people that we feel like our values align with, but the companies that live up to similar values. A willingness to be vulnerable puts the humanity back in the business, allowing for mistakes to be forgiven and missteps to be overlooked in favor of the greater effort and purpose.
Consumers are demanding transparency from the brands they buy from. Whether it be a desire to know all of the ingredients in the processed food they buy to the working conditions enjoyed by the staff, consumers increasingly want the brands to live up to the standards they themselves value. Brands such as Chipotle, Whole Foods and Patagonia have made transparency the foundation of their business. Rick Ridgeway, the VP for Environmental Initiatives had this to say in an interview with Fast Company: “We wanted to figure out how better to communicate our sustainability efforts to our customers. We didn’t just want to make an annual standard CSR report. It just didn’t feel like us. So we were trying to figure out what we could do, when we had this idea to go into our supply chain and make videos that a customer could see when they come into our website and find out what the real origins were of their jacket or T-shirt, going all the way back to the farm where the cotton was grown and ending up at the warehouse where the product finally ends up. They can see slideshows, videos and interviews of the people behind the product. But more importantly, these slides, videos, and interviews discuss what is good about the product and what sucks. It’s the good and the bad. It’s total transparency.”
In Gensler’s 2013 Brand Engagement Study they found the following outcome: “We believe that engagement is more emotional and rooted in the personal relationships, aspirations, values and motivations of consumers, and that the more a brand acknowledges and aligns with those priorities, the deeper engagement can be.” Practically, engagement can be fostered by communicating transparently with customers when they have questions on social media channels, developing products and services that truly align with the priorities of customers and finding creative and meaningful ways to develop emotional connections with customers.
Certification has been used by brands for years to help benchmark processes and systems. Certifications such as ISO 9000 and Six Sigma have been the mark of a quality-driven organization. More recently we have seen Fair Trade develop a certification for sustainable coffee bean growing and supply and LEED for green building leadership in the construction industry. These certifications and seals of approval from industry bodies build trust and credibility. While the certifications mentioned addressed certain parts of a business or processes, they do not deal with an entire business. This is where B Corp certification has found a niche. B Corp certification is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a global non-profit organization. To be granted and to preserve certification, companies must receive a minimum score on an online assessment for “social and environmental performance” and satisfy the requirement that the company integrate B Lab commitments to stakeholders into company governing documents, thereby demonstrating their true purpose and commitments to their stakeholders.
In a world where brand noise is only getting louder, finding a way to sing your beautiful song and be heard has never been more important. Build trust and you’ve built something greater than any product or service.
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Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award-winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California-based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.