3 ways to satisfy millennials’ demand for transparency

As consumers place more importance on honesty and openness, how can brand managers build loyalty and create a community of engaged consumers? Consider these tips.

Transparency is no longer just a strong choice —it’s nonnegotiable in organizations’ quest to reach and capture the millennial market.

To illustrate, let’s consider the food industry, where transparency holds especially notable value for millennial consumers.

According to The Washington Post, millennials are leading the charge when it comes to holding food manufacturers accountable for information about food provenance and preparation. “Healthy” has a new meaning for this generation—and brands won’t get very far with buzzwords such as “gluten-free,” “low-fat” or “high-fiber.” As The Washington Post reports, millennials equate healthy foods with those that are locally and sustainably sourced.

Of course, the importance of transparency in branding is not limited to the food industry.

Today’s consumers consider transparency a major factor in nearly every purchasing decision they make, and there are several ways you can embrace transparency to appeal to these powerful tastemakers.

Transparency across industries

Companies across the board have a lot to gain in learning from the food industry, where honesty in sourcing and labeling directly impacts consumers and their health. In all industries, communication strategies grounded in honesty can fill gaps in consumer knowledge, build a strong brand reputation, and even drive purchases.

In Label Insight’s 2016 “Driving Long-Term Trust and Loyalty Through Transparency” study, 94 percent of respondents said they would be more loyal to a brand that offered complete transparency. The same survey discovered that 81 percent of consumers would try a brand’s entire range of products if it showcased increased transparency. Millennial moms are especially drawn to transparency: Nearly 90 percent of them listed the trait as crucial when considering purchases.

Product packaging and branding are not always enough on their own. Here are three ways you can build a more open, honest communication strategy:

1. Give consumers a bird’s-eye view of your supply chain.

Millennials care about how their buying habits impact the world, and they want to support organizations that address their social and environmental concerns head-on. In fact, one study by Nielsen discovered that 73 percent of millennials are willing to pay extra for products that are sustainable. So, take meaningful steps to highlight your products’ origin stories to help drive lasting loyalty.

Everlane is a company that applies this principle with excellence. The online apparel brand prides itself on what it refers to as “Radical Transparency,” which it practices by telling the story of each item, including who made it, what it is made of, and where the materials come from.

Each product description on the Everlane website includes the factory where the item was made with a link to information about the factory and photos. The brand’s openness empowers customers to consider where or how the products they purchase come from.

2. Make a public pledge to champion important social issues—and follow through.

Modern consumers expect brands to take a stand for what is right, but they won’t hesitate to turn on those that sling empty words on issues that aren’t relevant to the company. In its report on social activism in branding, Sprout Social found that relevance and commitment are equally important to consumers, so to increase your credibility, choose issues that directly affect your customers and make sense for your business.

For instance, when Procter & Gamble’s Always brand launched its “#LikeAGirl” campaign in 2014, the feminine product company attached its brand to the idea that doing things “like a girl” should never be an insult. The campaign aimed to break stereotypes and empower young girls — particularly those going through puberty, a time when girls are especially vulnerable to losing confidence.

The “#LikeAGirl” campaign showed consumers that caring about empowering women and girls is a core value of the brand.  The company continues the campaign on its social media accounts, and recently, it kicked off an ancillary donation program called “#EndPeriodPoverty” to give underprivileged girls access to feminine hygiene products and help them “live #LikeAGirl,” despite their disadvantages.

3. Become an open book on social media.

According to another report by Sprout Social, consumers hold brands to high transparency standards on social media—above even politicians, friends and family. Per the report, at least eight out of every 10 people will take their business elsewhere if they sense that a brand is hiding something.

To showcase your commitment to transparency, answer customer questions in a timely and thorough manner. Responding within the hour is a good general rule, and if more than one team member responds to customers through your channels, collaborate to make sure answers are consistent. This can be a useful tool in establishing the authenticity of your brand because if customers ask questions about how you source and produce your products, a quick response will show you have nothing to hide.

When utilized correctly, social media can empower consumers to interact with and connect to your company in new and exciting ways, ultimately showing the human side of your brand. Encourage your employees to share branded content on your company’s behalf—but make sure they’re using approved language. According to research from LinkedIn, content that’s published by internal employees garners twice the amount of shares as content published by a company, even if the content is the exact same.

As every good meal is built from quality ingredients, every good brand is built on a foundation of transparency. This dynamic is exemplified in the food industry especially, but it applies across all sectors. When brand strategies are successful in appealing to Millennial target markets, both parties benefit in the long run.

Sarah Clark is the CEO of Mitchell, the flagship PR agency of the Dentsu Aegis Network.

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