“If you don’t do it now, you’ll have to adapt when complete transparency becomes mandatory.” Bruno Pieters, former art director of Hugo by Hugo Boss and designer of his own label for 10 years (businessoffashion.com, July, 23,2013)

“Because of the lower cost of technology, it is becoming inexpensive to embed tiny cameras in products. There is no reason why a consumer could not watch their creation unfold in its craftsman’s hands. With the help of existing and simple technology, the consumer can go behind the scenes of a product’s creation. Suddenly, our entire understanding of a product changes, and once-inanimate items now have a story to tell.” Daljit Singh, founding partner of digital and communication Conran Singh in London.


Description

In an environment of successive political scandals, ecological catastrophes and financial malfeasance in big corporations, consumers have become highly sceptical, even cynical, towards institutions, governments and marketers. Recent scenarios have further widened trust gaps. People are growing simultaneously more savvy and cynical and no longer tolerate what they perceive as corporate evasiveness from big brands. They highly doubt the corporate contributions to the “public good,” and demand more sincerity about products’ prices, processes, and provenance. A recent YouGov survey published in August 2014, found that half of Americans (50%) who are aware of advertising don’t trust what they see, read and hear in advertisements. 44% think that advertisements are dishonest. A clear majority (58%) thinks that there should be stronger requirements for proving claims in advertising. An April 2014 Harris poll about online behavior since the NSA-Snowden revelations, shows that 47% of respondents have changed their online behavior and think more carefully about where they go, what they say, and what they do online. In addition, due to excessive “greenwashing,” consumers have also become less trusting about brands’ declarations of ethics, and consequently they are less motivated to adopt environment-friendly behaviors.

A recent YouGov survey published in August 2014, found that half of Americans (50%) who are aware of advertising don’t trust what they see, read and hear in advertisements. 44% think that advertisements are dishonest.

In developing nations, an on-going culture of corruption, abuse of power, and profiteering has cast a negative cloud over otherwise impressive economic progress. The demand for transparency pushes for more openness, better communication, and stronger accountability from both businesses and governments, which must have an attractive ethical dimension and practice a ‘genuine caring attitude’.

Regaining trust

As a result, on the one hand, consumers are tuning out advertisements in favor of recommendations from people they trust: their peers, friends, colleagues, and family. On the other hand, this is generating an on-going proliferation of and enthusiasm for private labels. Consumers expect brands to show transparency about how their products are produced, the prices they display, the environmental impact of their processes, and even more. In the end, brand trust positively influences purchase intentions. Brands must move from ‘having nothing to hide’, and go beyond uttering lofty statements on ‘values’ or ‘culture’ to real, unambiguous and clear evidence, or statements about actual results.

Consumers expect brands to show transparency about how their products are produced, the prices they display, the environmental impact of their processes, and even more.

Not all consumers will be this demanding, but as total transparency becomes a hygiene factor, even those that aren’t will expect brands to prove their ethical and environmental credentials to those that do care. In order to remain credible to the eyes of their customers, today’s brands must show more clarity and more integrity about the product quality and origin, the manufacturing processes, and the prices.

Product-ainment

Transparency and traceability are defined as the disclosure of information relating to material sources, manufacturers and other suppliers in order to give a complete and accurate picture of the ethical and environmental impact of a product. Revealing the manufacturing or creation process of a product provides both a vital sense of transparency and education. Consequently, brands are realising the value of placing the act of making at the center of the shopping experience as a means to enhance the brand credibility and customer loyalty. The start was given by luxury houses that successively organized open days at their manufacturing workshops (Hermès, Louis Vuitton), launched 360° virtual tours of their workshops (Van Cleef & Arpels), or upgraded their boutiques with digital screens to broadcast videos displaying the manufacturing techniques (Burberry, Gucci). Since then, a myriad of smaller or mass-market brands have followed the movement.

Revealing the manufacturing or creation process of a product provides both a vital sense of transparency and education.

In the food industry, many restaurants – from fast-casual chains to classy restaurants favored by sophisticated foodies – and even bakeries have adopted an “open kitchen” mode. As diners grew obsessed with celebrity chefs and the creative ways fresh and exotic ingredients were being combined, they increasingly came to view the dish preparation in the kitchen as part of the “show” of dining out. Product-tainment, which turns the act and artistry into theatre, can herald brand credibility and transform standard stores and restaurants into must-visit destinations.

Featured examples

Craft Check

Credit: Craft Chek on Itunes

Credit: Craft Chek on Itunes

Craft Check, a smartphone app, informs drinkers on whether a certain beer can legitimately be called “craft”, in an attempt to provide them with more clarity. Users scan a product’s barcode and receive an instant verdict — “craft or not craft” — to help inform their purchasing decisions. Results from the database are predicated on the Brewers Association’s definition of an American craft brewery, specifically whether a brewery operates independently or is owned by one of the industry giants. As macro breweries attempt to stake a claim in the craft beer marketplace, consumers are demanding more transparency from brands, hence the app’s mission to help beer lovers “drink craft, not crafty.”

United States of America United States, March 2014

Meet from France

Credit: Paulvickersdesign.blogspot.fr

Credit: Paulvickersdesign.blogspot.fr

In an effort to restore consumers’ trust following the horsemeat scandal in early 2013, meat professionals in France have launched a new food quality label, “Meat from France“, to enhance transparency. A French Flag label hopes to restore the consumers’ confidence in the food they are buying by simplifying traceability processes in France and guaranteeing consumers that animals are bred, slaughtered and processed in the same country their meat is sold in. Meat traceability is compulsory in France, which means that any animal intended for human consumption is traceable with an ID number conveyed on sold products. French retailers plan on incorporating the new label on all products containing beef, veal, poultry, lamb, pork, horse and rabbit by the end of 2014.
France France, February 2014

Prices display by Super U

FullSizeRender (1)

French supermarket chain Super U has catered to consumers’ demand for by displaying who gets what from the price of its fruit and vegetables. Price stickers displayed not just the price to the consumer, but also the amount that goes to the producer as well as the amount that stays with the supermarket. In the case of an average pack of apples, consumers learned that of the €2.49 paid, the producers receive €1.05, while Super U receives €0.56. The rest covers taxes and the costs of packaging. Super U was the first supermarket in France to go down this route, in response to mounting consumer concern around the prices farmers receive for their produce.
France France, November 2012

Charles Philip Shanghai

Credit: Charlesphilipshanghai.com

Credit: Charlesphilipshanghai.com

Charles Philip Shanghai’s flagship store aims to show customers the level of craftsmanship that goes into the brand’s shoes with the aim to guarantee a certain level of quality. Shoppers at the store are able to watch their customized shoes and slippers being made by cobblers. “There is a glass enclosed room in the center of the space that offers the bespoke service, so shoppers can see the collection and watch the cobblers making their shoes,” Philip says. “Upstairs is our office, all glass as well, so they can see us working too. It really makes it an experience for the shopper. It’s always fun to see how a product is being made.”
China China, February 2014

Adidas Lab

Play video

In May 2013, sports brand Adidas launched the ‘Adidas Lab‘, the first in a series of innovation events that showcases Adidas products of the past, present and future. A year later, the brand unveiled a high-tech futuristic pop-up shop inside its Seoul’s Myeong-dong flagship store to highlight the research that went into its new running trainers. Scientific motifs and interactive displays inside the pop-up allude to the lab where the research team spent six years developing the new shoes. Annotated X-ray images reveal the construction of the shoes. Customers journey through three zones where they can explore and experience the brand and control the LED lighting using a customised app.
South-Korea South Korea, March 2014

Honest By

Credit: Honestby.com

Credit: Honestby.com

Belgian fashion designer Bruno Pieters founded Honest By, which aims to communicate to their clients with complete transparency about the materials used by the company and those they choose to collaborate with. He shares personal production information from yarn and button origin to fabric and manufacturing details. Even the store mark-up calculations are transparent, which sets Honest By apart from the vast majority of fashion design companies. The company wants to provide a unique shopping experience where the customer can purchase luxury items with complete awareness behind the origin and artisanship of what they are buying.
Belgium Belgium, 2012

Behind-the-scenes tour

Credit: Peanutbuttered.com

Credit: Peanutbuttered.com

At designers such as Ralph & Russo, a few select customers can enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour. Every aspect of the couture experience is planned, from the moment the chauffeur-driven car arrives to transport the customer to their first fitting to meeting Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo at the atelier to spending time with the creative team behind the brand. The idea is for the designers to show their clients their sketches and explain how each piece is made, from the first idea right through to the finished article.
United-Kingdom United Kingdom, February 2013

Business & Marketing guidelines

1

Avoid many of the common advertising tactics like comparative advertising, scientific endorsements and awards claims that may be counter productive and put consumers on alert.

2

Entice your customers to talk, share and review. Nielsen’s 2013 global trust in advertising survey about media channels found that once again, consumer recommendations are the most trusted form of “marketing” (so-called “earned media”). Online ads were at the bottom of the list, but their standing has improved in the last several years.

3

Trust translates into action. The more consumers trust a channel or form of marketing the more they’re likely to act or rely on that marketing.

4

Build a strong narrative that shows a product’s history or journey to the consumer, both online and in-store. Consider how to embrace and communicate the making process across all platforms.

5

Allow consumers to not only witness the making process but also participate in it. If you want to engage consumers, find a way to interact with them.

Summary

  • Consumers have become highly skeptical, even cynical, towards institutions, governments and marketers. They are growing simultaneously more savvy and cynical and no longer tolerate what they perceive as corporate evasiveness from big brands.
  • A recent YouGov survey, published in August 2014, found that half of Americans (50%) who are aware of advertising don’t trust what they see, read and hear in advertisements. 44% think that advertisements are dishonest. A clear majority (58%) thinks that there should be stronger requirements for proving claims in advertising.
  • Consumers expect brands to show transparency about how their products are produced, the prices they display, the environmental impact of their processes, and so on. In the end, brand trust positively influences purchase intentions.
  • Transparency and traceability involve the disclosure of information relating to material sources, manufacturers and other suppliers in order to give a complete and accurate picture of the ethical and environmental impact of a product – see luxury houses open days in their manufacturing workshops or open kitchens in restaurants.

Experts that we recommend

henri-verdier Henri Verdier
Chief data officer of France
orane-faivre-de-conde Orane Faivre de Condé
Director of Sustainable Development at McDonald’s
francois-veillerette François Veillerette
Ecology militant & author of book Le vrai scandale des gaz de schist (Les liens qui libèrent, 2011)
andre-cicolella André Cicolella
French health and environment researcher & author of book Toxique Planète. Le Scandale invisible des maladies chroniques (Seuil, 2013)
gaetan-bourdin Gaëtan Bourdin
Founder & CEO of French non-profit organization Les Badauds Associés
patrice-bessac Patrice Bessac
Mayor of Montreuil, founder of an open data platform