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The Transparent Brand Lead Image
Nov 19, 2014

The Transparent Brand

Brand isn’t just my logo?

When people ask me questions about their brand, it becomes apparent rather quickly that most are not 100% sure exactly what constitutes their brand. Often people mistake their mark or logo as the only representation of their brand—which is not the case.

To define it: Brand is everything someone thinks or feels when they interact with a product service or entity—it’s the entire package from how it looks, sounds, and smells, to the emotions it conjures. It’s a multisensory experience that goes well beyond just seeing “it.” A brand is perceived, and as Lee Atwater famously said, “Perception is Reality.”

The long road to the transparent brand.

This journey started years ago for me, but became concrete around Christmas of 2006. My folks had planned a trip to a major retailer claiming to have a “good old-fashioned Country Christmas.” My Dad was so excited that he would get to treat his grandson (age 4 at the time) to what he remembered Christmas to be. (You can take the boy out of Arkansas, but not the Arkansas out of the boy, I suppose ☺.)

Sadly after we arrived, we quickly realized that the event was nothing more than a promotional stunt. The disgruntled employees who were working as elves, the disarray in the space, and the failed attempts at a genuine experience—all of it was a disaster. When we were leaving, my Dad who was mostly disappointed said, “that was not what I expected; I will not be back here anytime soon.” He also went on to carry the tale to other family members who also were customers of this retail outlet.

What do transparent brands look like?

Transparent brands engage their audiences openly and honestly through their communication and underlying corporate purposes. These brands attempt to:
1. Create genuine opportunities to have relationships with their audiences
2.  Be fearless in the face of praise (or criticism)
3.  Create organizational self-awareness and continual improvement

What should a transparent brand avoid?

1. Greenwashing
2. Blackhat SEO practices
3. Ambiguous words and terms
4. Trying to portray something the brand is not

How do you start working towards the transparent brand?

1. Create a clear organizational purpose
2. Focus on issues that matter
3. Make commitments
4. Remove jargon; use justified claims only
5. Convey operational challenges in a spin-free context
6. Create personality vs. policies
7. Create conversation vs. monologue
8. Ethos vs. buzzwords
9. Honesty vs. perfection
10. Create deeper data for those that want AND require it
             a. Credit Jonathan Yohannan – SVP Conecomm

WHY does transparency matter to the brand?

Transparency matters A LOT. To begin, transparency has been identified as a consumer megatrend.
  • A megatrend is defined as a large social, economic, political, environmental or technological change that is slow to form.

  • Influences a wide range of activities, processes and perceptions
  • Can have lasting effects for decades
  • Are the underlying forces that drive trends

In July of 2011, BDO Seidman published Service 2020, as a report of the megatrends they believed would affect the service industry until 2021. Transparency was one of the 8 megatrends they believed would shape the service industry going forward.

Trendwatching added to this in their report 10 Trends for 2013 that companies needed to move from nothing to hide, to proving they have nothing to hide.

Furthermore, Millennials as a generation have an unprecedented level of access to information, and they are using that to demand more from organizations. In a survey conducted on Millenials, 44% reported they would NOT purchase major electronics without reviewing user-generated content. They go on further to report that they trust content from people who they don’t know more than from the companies producing the items!


Transparency is not that difficult unless you have something to hide. Deceptive brands can and will be found out. The viral nature of social media can create nightmares for the dishonest operator. Transparent brand leaders can rest easier when they engage their customers and shareholders with genuine conversations, authentic products and services, timely valued information, and a fearless approach to responding to feedback—both good and bad.

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