Image credit: Nick Youngson
Growing up, there’s a good chance that you were taught to be your best. To treat others with respect. To tell the truth. To show kindness and compassion toward others. And to go out of your way to help where you can and make the world a better place.
And right now, there’s a movement in the business world that asks you to do the same. It’s called honest branding. And much like the lessons you might have learned during childhood and throughout your formative years, it preaches honesty and transparency in business.
Now here’s a cynical question. Do you believe it to be true? Or do you believe that your company should adhere to what some believe in their own lives — that “nice guys finish last”?
Today, we’re going to take a look at honest branding. And we’re going to show you why it’s a worthy endeavor. One your business should take seriously.
People want authenticity from brands
Here’s the stone cold truth: people would rather do business with the brands they feel are open about who they are and what they do. Money doesn’t grow on trees, after all. And no one wants to hand their hard-earned cash to a business and feel bad about it afterward.
They want good juju from the transaction. They want to feel that they’re not just buying a product or service, but that they’re supporting a business that’s being real with them.
Which leads us into our next point.
People want to do business with brands that have good intentions
Consumers often seek out companies they vibe with. It’s why a lot of artists flock to Apple products. It’s not because you can’t find comparable software on a Windows machine, but because Apple developed a reputation over time as being a great platform for artists.
But that’s not always enough for consumers. They also want to know that a company is operating with the best of intentions, whether that’s toward that company’s customers or the world at large. So they’ll eat at restaurants that are farm-to-table, because they appreciate that restaurant’s support of local farmers. Or they’ll buy a certain type of shampoo because a particular company doesn’t test on animals.
Being open and authentic is good. But wearing all the ways you’re doing good on your sleeve? That’s even better.
People want to feel like a business is on their side
One of the best things you can do as a business is treat your customers as individuals and peers. Pretend that you’re not serving loads of customers. Pretend you’re serving just one. And pretend you get where they’re coming from.
Dove, for example, really nailed this with its Real Beauty campaign. So many beauty products feature television stars and models. People who look consistently flawless on film. And sometimes it can seem like those products aren’t made at all for everyday people. But Dove went in a different direction with its campaign. It showed that, sometimes, women have less-than-flattering feelings about their appearances, and it empowered them to let those feelings go.
Dove gained a lot of goodwill by telling women, “Hey. It’s okay if you have wrinkles. You’re you and that’s all that matters.” Almost as a good friend would. Look for ways your company can do something similar.
People appreciate those who go above and beyond to be open
Are you familiar with Buffer? It’s a social media tool that enables you to schedule updates, letting you automate some of the more mundane tasks of managing a Twitter or Facebook account. The company itself is already well known for its stellar customer service, but there’s another area Buffer really shines in. It doesn’t just pay lip service to being transparent. It relishes in it.
Buffer posts an incredible amount of information about the company on its website. If you go there, you’re not just going to find sales pages and help files. You’ll learn exactly how much every employee makes. And you can read up on every metric the company uses to determine its success.
It isn’t about releasing every last scrap of information, because that’s neither wanted nor justifiable. There’s no reason to talk about how much revenue you made last year (not unless you’re aiming to sell your business in the near future) or what brand of notepad you use in meetings. It’s more about scrapping the compulsion to hide things from people.
When a company is that open, it’s hard not to trust them. Vulnerability is compelling. Which is why a lot of customers trust Buffer enough to pay them for the company’s social media tool.
So, how can you be more honest in your branding?
We’ve told you why it’s important that your company takes honest branding seriously. And we’ve shown you that, yes, honest branding does win in the end. Businesses all over are putting an emphasis on it — even those you may interact with on a daily basis.
Now it’s your turn.
Start by being willing to answer questions. If a customer wants to know something, tell them. If Buffer can publish employee salaries, why can’t you? Perhaps that’s a stretch for your own business — privacy and such — but look at that company as an example of one that does something out of the ordinary. The Buffer team are answering questions most companies wouldn’t be willing to. That’s important.
Also, call yourself out on mistakes. And if you can, try to be proactive about it. There’s a good chance that you’ll know you’ve made a mistake before a whole bunch of people are pointing it out. The faster you acknowledge your error, and the faster you handle it yourself, the more customers will be willing to let it slide.
Finally, listen to feedback and act on it. Don’t just pretend to lend an ear to customers. Don’t provide them with an empty “I hear you” that results in zero action. Take their words to heart. Look at ways you can implement their feedback into bettering your company. Because there’s a good chance that if one customer feels a certain way, others do, too.
And please — don’t let anyone tell you that honest branding doesn’t win. It’s been thriving for a long time now, and it’s still rising in importance. Less transparent and less honest companies may prosper in the short term. But if you’re after long term success?
Well, you know which path you should take.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups, a site dedicated to supporting startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for entrepreneurial tips, and follow along on Twitter @getmicrostarted.