The need for transparency is becoming increasingly central to marketing, but the term is multifaceted and impacts each aspect of a marketing strategy differently. Unpacking the term and understanding these nuances can help you to ensure that transparency becomes integrated into your strategy and your brand remains competitive.
Transparency has been a key topic of conversation in recent months, not least because of GDPR. Shining the spotlight on how international brands handle customer data and ensure the safety of personal information, the introduction of new regulations sparked an unprecedented discussion about how brands can address the issue of transparency. GDPR has also begun to impact customers’ awareness of how their data is used, with ever greater numbers demanding that brands work hard to handle their data responsibly.
Likewise, customers are demanding increased transparency from brands when it comes to ethics. Notions such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), disclosure of pay gaps and in-team diversity statistics are fast becoming commonplace. As more and more customers begin to demand ethical transparency before giving their trust, and money, to a brand, transparency will become a key consideration for businesses looking to grow.
According to an article by Forbes contributor Deborah Weinswig, ‘transparency is becoming best practice in operations across the supply chain.’ This is having an impact on those brands with retail and ecommerce offerings, who need to address customer expectations to remain competitive. Citing discussions at a recent conference panel, Weinswig suggests that ‘demand for supply chain transparency will continue to push technology forward, as consumers want to see where their products are made and who made them.’
Once again, blockchain is proving to be the go-to platform for brands seeking supply chain transparency. Quoting a recent survey, Weinswig points out that ‘when asked about the most important advantages of blockchain, survey respondents noted that it improves supply chain visibility/transparency, reduces transaction costs and enhances trust between supply chain partners.’
Central to this push for supply chain transparency is the desire to increase and emphasise brand integrity. According to Buxton Midyette, one of the panellists speaking at the conference, ‘transparency and brand integrity go hand in hand, [meaning] that brands have to maintain their integrity with both suppliers and consumers’ if they are going to succeed.
Just as blockchain is bringing transparency to supply chains, its decentralised database is enabling greater transparency over how customer data is handled and a new level of security in storing personal information.
For Forbes contributor Andrew Rossow, using centralised servers has left many online functions that require large amounts of personal data (such as online banking) vulnerable to misuse and fraud. Rossow believes moving to a decentralised approach, like that offered by blockchain, could be the answer.
Rossow suggests that ‘it’s vital to have a platform that protects consumer information, all while having a well-versed and readily-equipped team to handle consumer information.’ By sharing data across a peer-to-peer (P2P) network, blockchain means ‘visibility and transparency are increased while minimizing chances for fraudulent behaviors.’
Yet technologies like blockchain can also increase transparency for marketers themselves. For Content Standard, blockchain is likely to increase transparency across many forms of marketing, particularly influencer marketing. The article argues that because monitoring, measuring and streamlining influencer campaigns often requires multiple platforms to keep track of progress, the data inputted and insights generated can often become messy and unreliable.
Content Standard believes that soon ‘marketers may be using blockchain to authenticate influencers and validate ROI,’ since ‘blockchain can serve social media marketing and influencer campaigns by creating transparency in the transaction process, while also authenticating users and the engagement that marketers receive from these transactions.’
The article acknowledges that, since blockchain and marketers’ trust in and knowledge of the technology are still in their infancy, much of this represents a potential for transparency that has yet to be fulfilled. Only time will tell whether as marketers buy in to blockchain technology influencer marketing, and marketing more generally, will be able to make the transition to transparency.