Brands and Social Responsibility: Why Glass Box Tactics Are So Important

I’ve always been fascinated by consumer relationships with brands. What makes a brand popular one minute, and out the next? One of the major trends at the moment centres around brand transparency and authenticity.  But what does it really mean, and why is it important?

It’s not news that the brands we choose to consume tell the world something about us. (For example, someone might make sure they are wearing Nike or 2XU to fit in at the gym and show that they are serious about fitness.) But in 2018, we’re seeing a not-so-subtle shift towards consumers using brands to externally communicate internal values. For me, when I bought a reusable coffee cup I wanted to show others that I care for the future of our planet just as much as I wanted to reduce my waste to landfill. And when I purchase thankyou. hand wash, I am making a conscious decision to align with a brand that fights global poverty. I am announcing ‘I value and care for the planet. I am socially responsible’.

A Trend Watching webinar I watched earlier this year explains ‘glass box tactics’ and how consumers are beginning to relate to brands on a more personal level; i.e. ‘what I consume equals who I am, therefore brands must share my values’.  This shift means that consumers choose brands that align with their personal values and are increasingly demanding for brands to prove they have nothing to hide and demonstrate how they are enhancing people’s lives. In summary, this means that a brands internal culture, just as much as external positioning, is becoming a key part of their brand story and perception.

Some brands are already letting their internal culture and socially responsible positions shine through:

  1. Online retailer Everlane has a positioning built on radical transparency that has won the hearts and minds of its customers by not just saying they support fair pay and good working conditions, but by actually doing it and showing their customers how. They have a transparent pricing model that outline costs of materials, transport and wages and they profile the working conditions of their factories on their site.
  2. 7-Eleven has declared that they will lead the cup recycling revolution, by partnering with Simply Cups, a program establishing cup recycling in Australia. (Coffee cups are not recycled in Australia and more than one billion cups end up in landfill each year.) 7-Eleven have committed to saving 70 million takeaway cups (their annual contribution alone!) from landfill with this initiative.
  3. New (to Australia) ride sharing company Taxify has built their proposition around treating drivers better. They take around 10% less commission from drivers than the number one competitor, meaning you can support the livelihood the driver sitting next to you just by choosing Taxify over competitors.

(And a word of warning… we know what happens when brands get it wrong. You only have look at the #DeleteUber campaign from last year to see the significance of a brands internal culture.)

So, my advice for brands who want to employ ‘glass box tactics’? Get intimate with your customers; like 7-eleven did, learn what they expect and want from you as a brand in social and cultural contexts, and work towards delivering that. Drawing inspiration from Everlane, be transparent through storytelling; once you have figured out what your customers want, tell them how you are delivering it! And lastly, like Everlane and Taxify, be authentic. At BrandHook we call this ‘storydoing’. It’s not enough to say you’ll do something, you need to actually do it! In the age of ‘glass box tactics’, consumers will see right through your brand if you don’t.

Written by Emma.

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