5 ways to make transparency a brand advantage

Pink slime. Pan-European traces of horsemeat. Escolar masquerading as white tuna. Some 30 states considering GMO-labeling legislation.

The challenges and opportunities surrounding transparency affect consumers in ways that are deeply personal (if not downright intestinal) and raise the stakes for brands.

We’re living in the age of “radical transparency” thanks to the global nature of supply chains, the convergence of new technologies, the risks posed by climate change and the rise of so-called “aspirational consumers” who want to reconcile their materialism with environmentalism.

As an agency focused on the intersection of branding, sustainability and innovation, we see a powerful moment for brands to leverage transparency as a competitive advantage. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but how might we move faster and more creatively to do it right, to drive more value across the value chain?

BBMG’s recent global study with GlobeScan and SustainAbility surveyed 6,224 consumers across six markets: Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, China and India. Almost nine in 10 consumers globally (86 percent) identify transparency as an important issue for companies to address — and more than eight in 10 (82 percent) consumers want to know the ingredients they are putting “in, on and around” their bodies.

The pressure will be greater from consumers in emerging markets. And the questions will continue as up-and-coming Millennials ask: How was it made? Where was it made? Who made it? Was it made under safe conditions? Fair conditions? Was it verified? Who verified it? How do we know? What do my friends and family think?

So, yesterday’s compliance and minimum disclosure requirements are becoming price of entry. Full product transparency is just beginning to have its moment. And not just in the environmental sense. Leading companies recognize that sustainability is an innovation imperative, and that as box-turning consumers examine the list of ingredients, the semantics of transparency offer many value-generating pathways.

Let’s take a look at the most common tropes and signifiers and the opportunities they provide for innovation, engagement and impact.

Label image by STILLFX via Shutterstock.

Next page: Making promises, putting producers upfront