The Transparent Brand

Sorry, Mad Men, but the days of pulling the wool over our eyes are over. As soon as consumers were able to search the Internet, your days were numbered. Oddly enough, it took until just recently for people to actually use this tool to turn the screws on companies for being dishonest about their products and services.

The advertising and marketing of brands has stepped into a new world; a world where brands are watched, judged, researched, and held accountable by customers. The only recourse for a company? Become transparent.


Being a transparent brand means you’re doors are open, both literally and figuratively. Basically, you hide nothing. Everything from how and where your products are made (and what you used to make them), to what it cost you to manufacture them should be public information and easily attainable by your customers.

The Internet has allowed for consumers to be savvy as ever. Information is out there to be found, even if you don’t want it to be. In this day and age of social media, if you’re dishonest and get caught, you get burned … badly. Your brand simply can’t hide behind an iconic logo and slick ads anymore.  

Millennials in particular are a driving force behind why brands need to become transparent. Social media platforms and online reviews can hold businesses accountable for what the produce, and how they produce it. It’s funny to think that something as elementary as a Yelp review can damage a brand and give it a bad reputation, but it happens all the time. Fair or not, it’s the way things are now.

Need proof? Studies show that 94% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that is completely transparent. The same studies show that 56% would stay loyal to a transparent brand for life, and that 73% would pay more for a product from a transparent company. Those are pretty staggering numbers.

Work Culture

Becoming a transparent brand isn’t something that can just happen over night. It takes time, dedication, and a lot of effort.

Companies need to start from within. Having a work culture where everyone knows exactly what the company stands for, what it’s core values are, who does what and why, and who makes what and why will only bring the company closer. Having employees who trust in their leaders, and admire them, will only make them better employees. The goal is to eliminate secrets, the hierarchy, and open up the strategic process for everyone to understand.

Our Bad!

Companies are bound to mess up from time to time. When this happens, they need to own up to it fully, and quickly. Going back to the impact social media can have, a screw up can go viral in a moment and it can be particularly harmful.

When something egregious happens, show empathy to anyone who was hurt by the error, and show the paths you’re taking to correct the issue in the future. Show the exact reason you screwed up, and the exact measures you’ll take to be better. Brands that can own up to their mistakes seem more genuine in the eyes of the public.

Check Your Spelling

Another way to stay transparent is in how you present your product details and your product ingredients.

Product Details – These should be listed on your company website, on your social platforms, and on the product packaging itself. Show people what materials you used in manufacturing the product, where it was manufactured, who manufactured it, and what it cost you to make it. Adding pictures of all of this is icing on the cake in terms of transparency.

Product Ingredients – This has to be on your packaging, but it should also be available online for anyone to find. Laws still allow for companies to not list everything they put into a product, and this is a mistake. There are far too many successful brands out there that are being completely open about what goes into their product and where those ingredients come from. Millennials, for example, are very into to organic and sustainable foods. The more natural your ingredients read to them, the better chance they’ll purchase your product. This doesn’t mean you need to go organic, but at least explain what the heck Red #40, or something like cyclopentasiloxane is.

Generation Next

Millennials are digital-driven and always online. They are, and will be, the buying power of the future. This means that you need to be active on social platforms, on your own website, pay attention to digital trends, and make sure you are able to be mobile at all times. Social media is largely word-of-mouth, so the more transparent and appealing you can be to the millennial generation, the better off you’ll be. Cater to the hand that feeds you!

Story Time

A brand’s story is also an important factor to think about in sustaining transparency. Since we are more connected than ever before as a society, news travels pretty fast. The better your brand story in the eye of the public, the better the chance that information will spread organically. Millennials in particular want to buy from a moral and just company. If you aren’t telling a story that appeals to them, they will let it be known … loudly (well … by typing in all caps at least).

While providing transparent data to the public is a crucial aspect of a successful company, nothing communicates better than a story does. And if it can spread that you are true to your word, and are genuine and authentic … well wouldn’t that be special.


Consumers are demanding more and more from brands. The “product shelf” is now your product, your brand story, your values, your personality, and even your reviews. When a consumer encounters a transparent brand, it gives them a feeling of empowerment. They feel as if they are dealing with real facts, and their choice to buy your product is up to them, and them alone.

Transparency can also empower a brand, as it increases consumer trust, builds brand loyalty, and increases a brand’s value.

So to all the Don Drapers out there, good luck! You’re going to need it.