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How to build a transparent brand

Transparency is a very important trend in branding today, especially since customers have so many options from which to choose. Transparency is defined as “being free from pretense or deceit;” or in business as “visibility or accessibility of information, especially concerning business practices.” Simply put, transparency is about being honest with customers about what the brand does, the price someone will pay, and what benefit they will receive from using your product or service.   While it might be easy to confuse this quality with authenticity, I would argue that transparency is about much more than that: authenticity means that not only is a brand relevant, delivering meaningful value to the customer, but the brand also must do what it says it will. Authentic brands follow through with actions that benefit the customer and deliver results.   Transparency often strikes a deeper chord with consumers, particularly in terms of their pocketbooks. When customers buy a product or service, they are putting their faith and trust in your brand; it is up to you to not only deliver what they expect, but within the terms and pricing that have been established.  

1. Don’t over-promise and then under-deliver.

  This is something that most products or services struggle with. Often, while in pursuit of more sales, higher revenue growth, or increased profitability, companies will sometimes do or say anything to earn business. Once received, they might leave customers wondering where their product or service is. Worse yet, the product or service delivered might be of inferior quality to what was promised. Have you ever ordered a product from one of those television infomercials, waited “4–6 weeks” for its delivery, and then had it break within the first few hours of its use? Or the product was not quite what was pictured on the commercial?  

2. Don’t have hidden costs that will surprise the customer.

  Being upfront and honest about pricing is essential to transparency, and to establishing trust with customers. Ensure that there are no hidden costs associated with buying the product or service. On a recent family trip to the Atlantis Resort and waterpark in the Bahamas, I discovered how important transparency in branding is. After months of anticipation for all of the fun that had been promised, my delight and excitement quickly turned to frustration and then anger at all of the hidden charges that were assessed during our stay: additional charges for daily room service; expensive drinks and food; and charges for certain conveniences such as Internet access. Even with a “gratuity included meal plan” and reasonable room rates, the trip still cost hundreds of dollars more than expected. You might be able to fool customers once, but if you do, don’t be surprised if they never buy your product or service again.  

3. Always communicate with customers, even when there is bad news.

  There is an old adage that “no news is good news.” Nothing can be further from the truth, especially when it comes to your brand. Customers want, and need, to hear from the providers of their products and services, even if it is a simple email or phone call. A little reassurance, along with honest communication about pricing when issues arise, will go a long way to establishing a relationship built on trust and transparency.   By: Ryan Hembree, Principal of brand and creative strategy, Indicia