marketing tactics
Marketing Content Strategy

The Art of Honesty: Marketing Tactics to Tell Your Brand Story through Transparency

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Trust is an important component in any relationship. It doesn’t matter its nature, if a relationship doesn’t have trust then oftentimes it ends up failing in one way or another. Marketers and brands have long been savvy about the significance of this quality in their consumer relationships, touting words like “trustworthy” and “transparent” in their brand messaging. But unfortunately for consumers, not all brands really live up to this promise. Many of them fall short of their marketing tactics, which preach trust but don’t live it. That said, there are good brands out there that maintain transparency and honesty with their consumers.

Why you trust friends over othersWhy is trust so important? A recent ScienceDaily study set out to answer this question. Researchers engaged a group of people in an investment game where the role of trust was measured based on the entity in which they were investing. One group invested with a friend, the other group with a stranger, and the third with a slot machine. They also used a predictive computational model to predict how much they would invest in each round, based on the previous. The study found that those interacting with a supposed “friend” were more predictable in their investments than those making decisions only based on supposed financial payoffs. In other words, interacting with the friend made the investment more palatable.

Knowing that trust and transparency is important in content marketing tactics, it’s also important to remember one of the best ways of being transparent is through storytelling. The following three brands became great storytellers at moments when they needed to be completely honest with their customer base.

Being Part of the Process

Trust isn’t only about transparency, it’s also about collaboration and allowing the consumer to be involved in the company’s process. Taylor Guitars is a fantastic example of a brand that practices transparency and collaboration. The use of ebony wood in guitar materials became both a business and ethical challenge when ebony trees across the globe—now a legally protected species—diminished from deforestation. Recently, the company found itself in a position to do something about that after the purchase of an ebony mill outside of Yaoundé, Cameroon. During its initial discovery, the company found that the mill workers were cutting down 20 trees to find just two purely ebony trees that could be used, in essence wasting 90 percent of already endangered trees. The CEO, Bob Taylor, made the decision then and there that it was time to change things and no longer allow cosmetics needs to interfere with sustainability and environmental goals. Taylor Guitars now uses all ebony trees to make its guitars, including those with gray and vanilla tones in it. And it turned to storytelling to involve its customer base in this decision, creating a landing page and 13-minute video featuring Taylor himself.

This level of transparency not only helps the consumer feel good about where they’re buying their guitars, but it also helps them feel good about what they’re doing for the environment. Taylor Guitars is changing the way that people actually see and value guitars; it’s putting the forest first. It is even transparent about the fact that it realizes not all consumers will love the new look of its guitars…but as it says in its story, that’s not what matters. What matters is the “truth of the trees.”

Cop to It

Taking ownership of mistakes and poor quality product is also a big part of building trust with consumers. Allowing your consumers to know that you are fallible, that you don’t always make the right decisions, and that sometimes a long-time brand can lose its way is one of the best methods to build loyalty. Domino’s turnaround strategy is the ultimate example. After listening to customers’ complaints over and over about the pizza being horrible and “tasting like cardboard,” the new CMO, Russell Weiner, decided to do something about it. He decided to show all of the company’s cards: the bad feedback, the poor sales—everything—and tell the company’s story through the angle of complete honesty. Domino’s made a new commitment to turning the brand around through an improved product, modernized digital marketing, and a sustained open-door policy to its process and ingredients. It shared its story through video, advertisements, social media, and landing pages—all with the same message: that it accepted ownership of their product and were finally doing something about it. This level of transparency was 100 percent the right move, as same-store sales were up by 14.3 percent in just the first quarter after the turnaround launched. And in 2013, the company drove $2 billion in global digital sales.

Do You Understand Me?

Another great way to demonstrate honesty and build trust with consumers is to show that you truly understand them, especially when crisis hits. Buffer is a great example of a company that used this as one of its marketing tactics during a difficult time that could have been disastrous for the brand.

When the popular social media app had a security breach in 2013 that caused thousands of false postings to be shared on Facebook and Twitter, the company hit the ground running, taking full ownership of the issue. While many other brands may have shrugged off ownership to external sources, Buffer accepted responsibility because the company truly understood the impact such a breach had on its users. As the story unfolded, Buffer was honest about the security breach’s impacts on users and when they could expect solutions. This type of connection with users goes beyond just being upfront and honest about a problem affecting them; it shows that the brand really cares about its users and is willing to do anything to help them.

Honesty in Your Content Marketing Strategy

Be it through involvement with the company and its process, taking ownership of a brand and product going seriously off the rails, or demonstrating a true understanding of the impact external forces has on its users, establishing trust and staying transparent is becoming one of today’s most successful marketing tactics. Actually, in the spirit of honesty, I believe brand transparency is more than just a marketing tactic. Companies shouldn’t think of it that way. In today’s age of consumer access and rightful expectations, companies should think of honesty as a quality core to all of their marketing.

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