Looking into fads and trends in advertising, the trend that I see as having grown in recent years is brand transparency and authenticity. Starting out as a persuasion tactic it's developed into a necessity for most companies. As more brands are been caught out stealing customer information and sourcing material unethically, people haven't warmed to being taken advantage of, and becoming more and more interested in where the products they buy everyday are coming from. To keep customer loyalty, companies are reliant on gaining their trust. Gone are the day that a company can put a basic label of the back of a product and expect people to buy it no questions asked. People more and more are wanting a detailed break down of ingredients and the production processes. I'll be looking at how this has developed over the years and how it's used in all industries and how brands have developed to keep the consumer on side.
A study by Label Insight reveals that “millennial moms are leading this move toward digital transparency. Millennial moms -- mothers between the ages of 18 and 34 -- value transparency more than any other demographic, are significantly more interested in seeking product information through digital channels and are willing to pay more for it.”(Labelinsight, 2016) Research also shows that this demographic have a spending power of nearly $200 billion. A lot of consumers these days combat this issue by shopping locally, known as ‘Locavore'. Based on the principle that food with lower carbon footprint and organically sourced makes it better for the environment. However for the majority, convenience is the main priority. A company called Good Guide allows people scan products while shopping to see a breakdown of its ingredients and environmental impact. Putting the information and the choice in the hands of the shopper. To respond to this, companies are having to make their products more traceable and examples of this would be “Balfegó, which supplies fish to restaurants, has a smartphone app that allows clients to check the origin of its products.” (EuroMonitor, 2014) Everlane, a clothing company that breaks down the cost of every aspect in the supply chain. Even telling you their margin for profit.
To go back a bit, a big part of this story originates from the Nike sweatshop controversy. All the way back to the early 1970s, Nike was being accused of using sweatshops to produce goods all over Asia. For decades they denied liability. Up until 1997, when a researcher called Darren O'Rawe was part of a UN study on factory conditions. Later publishing a report on the working condition in one of Nikes factories. This flooded the news and caused a 20% drop in their market cap, valued at nearly $2 billion. (The Naked Brand, 2013) From 1998 Nike proceeded to introduce a code of conduct which over time improved the working conditions in their factories. Nike is now ranked 49* for the worlds best employers 2018, and valued at over $110 billion.
The internet is a core aspect of the world today. Companies need to be able to adjust and respond quickly as consumers priorities can change so rapidly. Moral panic has influenced companies for decades. An example of this would be the use of palm oil. A resource used in 1000s of products sold in every super market. Over the last year, the environmental impact of farming palm oil has been publicised drastically, causing large companies to respond. Most recently, the supermarket ‘Iceland' released a Christmas advert displaying the fact that they will no longer be selling products with palm oil. The advert itself was banned from being displayed on tv due to it being too political. It was shared online causing moral panic amongst consumers. At this time 17,000,000 people have viewed the advert and a further 700,000 people signed a petition for the ban to be lifted. In days, every newspaper had published an article on it. Greenpeace executive director John Sauven had this to say “As global temperatures rise from burning forests, and populations of endangered species continue to dwindle, companies using agricultural commodities like palm oil will come under increasing pressure to clean up their supply chains,” he said. “Many of the biggest consumer companies in the world have promised to end their role in deforestation by 2020.”(Telegraph, 2018) From this you can see the cause and effect of a brand creating moral panic putting themselves at the same level as the consumer.
Figure 1: Iceland's Banned TV Christmas Advert... Say hello to Rang-tan
Transparency isn't a choice anymore, but how we decided to approach it, is. In the era of the internet, companies can no longer hide the practices they use. Forcing them to adapt to the new way of marketing. People respond to honesty more than anything else, giving brand the opportunity to use ethos to really tap into what the 2018 consumer wants. Further into Label Insights study shows that “94 percent of respondents say they are likely to be more loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency.”(Label Insight, 2016) Recently Walmart, the largest company in the world by revenue and Patagonia, the figurehead for transparency and green business have partnered up. “Over the last two years Patagonia has shared its knowledge about greening its supply chain with Wal-Mart--for free. It is also working with Wal-Mart to develop a sustainability index for its products”. (Forbes, 2018) This really shows how transparency is the future and not a trend that will fade away easily. I wanted to include this as part of my conclusion because it really sums up the potential success of being a transparent brand. This is from a study conducted by Cone Communication. “87% of the more than 10,000 respondents said that they make purchases based on what they know about an organisation's social, environmental and cause-related engagement. The remaining 13 were predominantly older than 55. The Old Guard is fading out, and the New Guard wants to know what your organisation is doing. They're even willing to say “it's okay if a company is not perfect, as long as it is honest about its efforts.”(nonprofit times, 2014)
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