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The importance of honesty in branding

The year that’s been 2017 has well and truly established itself as the ‘ground zero’ of ‘fake news’ on an international scale. In this climate of dishonesty and uncertainty, consumers and citizens are responding with scepticism and mistrust – of the media, politicians, and organisations everywhere.

So how can you navigate your way around this mistrust to rebuild and maintain a trusting relationship with your audience? The answer is simpler than you’d think.
Be honest.

According to the 2016 Food Revolution Study, 94% of consumers say brand transparency is important for their purchase decisions. According to a recent report, into the brand perceptions of US millennials, who make up 30% of that population, honesty is the number one trait millennials value in an organisation.

In the digital era information spreads rapidly, with the negative fallout of dishonest campaigns spreading rapidly through social media platforms. Companies such as Nokia, Uber, Volkswagen, and Lumos Labs have all learnt the hard way just how heavily dishonesty impacts upon organisational reputation, all suffering a loss in audience and a loss in customer base and having to enact crisis management plans to fix a problem that simple honesty could have solved all along.

Not only can honesty help a brand to avoid crises and mitigate negative perceptions, brand honesty can also help to differentiate a brand in a crowded market. Brands such as Southwest Airlines, Clearasil, and Hans Brinker are all benefiting from positive brand perceptions generated through honest and genuine communication with customers and the public.

Brand honesty also helps to manage expectations. By laying everything out for stakeholders and publics to see and acknowledging weaknesses and flaws, organisations have far better control over their brand image and reputation. A ‘warts and all’ approach to branding means minimal back peddling or justification if and when things go wrong for your brand.

The next question is how does an organisation maintain brand honesty? Brand honesty can be attained by simply adhering to the following points;

  • Be transparent in everything your organisation does and says. Minimise exaggerations and avoid deceptions.
  • Keep public interests at heart. Always make sure the focus of your brand is on the customers and other stakeholders.
  • Understand and communicate your organisation’s values both internally and externally.
  • Accept responsibility for errors. No one is perfect, not even a well-established organisation. So ensure that when things do go wrong, the organisation is ready to claim responsibility and move toward repairing and rebuilding.