Case study: How to become a truly transparent brand
The impact of the ‘always on’ digitally-enabled world we live in is an emerging consumer desire to know the backstory and details of how products are created. Not surprising when you factor in the number one lifestyle concern for people across all age segments is health and wellness. This seek-to-understand behavior is transforming the human and pet food industries.
In parallel, consumers now care deeply about the businesses’ respective mission, purpose, and authenticity – seeking to connect with brands which share their values. As a result, consumers want to understand what’s in the food they’re buying and how the company’s standards and mission are brought to life inside the products they make.
Why is this happening?
First, consumers have connected the dots between the quality of what they ingest and the quality of their lives. People care about the foods they’re eating – and want to know more about them. Equally true for pet food.
Second, because of eroding, declining trust in the claims and assertions made by brands about their products – consumers are seeking objective, credible sources of information to help them make their own informed judgments.
Third, purchases have become emblematic of what people want the outside world to believe is important to them – so they seek reassurance of high-quality ingredients, ethical standards, healthier and made sustainably.
The concept of Transparency has floated to the top as shorthand for this intense, growing desire to experience and verify what brands claim about their products.
Why this should matter to you:
Consumer trust precedes any kind of relationship and willingness to engage with a brand or product. Trust is earned, not inherently owned – and is based on intentional investments (that don’t look, smell or feel like advertising) to secure it.
If you want your marketing to be welcomed (rather than click to avoid) and believed, then trust is a fundamental requirement. Transparency provides an operable platform for how this is achieved.
What is transparency?
Being truly transparent is about openness, disclosure, access and operating in a trustworthy and forthright manner. Call it actively encouraging observation, scrutiny and reporting from outside sources.
Verifying and validating what you want others to believe about your quality and integrity commitments creates the opportunity for a meaningful conversation with consumers and stakeholders. Respect and reputation are not commodities that come along with simply existing. They are difficult to create and hard to hold onto over time.
Best practices case study: Champion Petfoods
Disclaimer: this is a platform Emergent created and brought to life for Champion after a comprehensive audit of their operations, strengths and unique company commitments.
It goes without saying the pet food industry universally demands trust from its core customers. Given the nature of the product form (ubiquitous brown kibble) pet parents are required to buy into the statements and claims made by brands concerning ingredient quality and how the food is prepared.
Driving this interest is the intense desire pet parent have to express their love for their pets through the quality of the diet provided. Engaged pet owners try as best they can to discern product labels to understand the meaning of words, phrases and insider language used in the pet food world (like meat meal).
Still, a trust gap exists between what’s claimed by brands versus what can be credibly verified.
- According to a recent study reported in Pet Food Industry magazine, 75% of consumers are willing to switch from their current brand to one that provides more in-depth product information than what appears on the physical label. That’s up from 39% in 2016.
Champion Petfoods is at the forefront of the protein forward, meat-focused, biologically appropriate approach to what has been popularly described as ancestral diet. The company’s early success was attributed to pioneering the focus on percentages of high-quality proteins in the recipe. Champion uses comparatively high levels of fresh and raw animal meat respectful of the physiology and eating anatomy of dogs and cats.
Additionally, to deliver on their mission the company started early to invest in an extensive network of regional farms, ranches and fish supplier partnerships to provide real food ingredients, many within driving distance of their kitchens. This helps enable Champion to be fully transparent about their ingredient sources, sustainability commitments and aligned production standards for its Orijen and Acana brands.
The Champion Transparency Council
The Transparency Council platform was created by Emergent, to address consumers’ evolving need to know more, and in so doing, begin a new conversation with them that addresses their questions about ingredients and safety, nutrition and quality.
This more earnest and authentic approach – galvanized by the Council’s independence and third-party voice – manifested as a sophisticated content engine designed to cement trust and generate a more informative and engaging brand communication.
Emergent conducted a comprehensive recruiting effort for expert Veterinary physician members and a social media based public search for two pet parents to join the four-member Council.
Their mission: to observe, verify and report on everything Champion does related to making pet food.
Given the significance of trust and transparency to the Council’s mission, it was critical to leverage Champion’s unique supply chain relationships, state-of-the-art kitchens and knowledgeable personnel to underscore the integrity of its stated Biologically Appropriate pet food mandate.
- The Council delivered an ongoing content creation platform that carries with it the authentic voice of outside third-party experts and pet parents, offering valuable communication that people want rather than seek to avoid.
- Champion secured the mantle of Transparency industry leadership at a time when this is an important consideration on the path to purchase.
- Champion went from zero to 60 quickly as an industry leading editorial voice, in part because the Council and its activity was precedent-setting and newsworthy for the industry.
- Transparency is best served with embedded credibility, using the voices of independent, third parties to report and verify what the company claims about its products.
- Openness is a prerequisite and underscores a perception of inclusiveness and honesty.
- Seeing is believing, so the deployment of third parties helps fuel an ongoing source of reporting that, over time, can evolve into a channel of helpful, useful guidance on issues and topics important to core customers.
- Transparency-based information is ready-made for social channel distribution and helps close the loop on what brand fans believe and say is the reason for their advocacy and brand evangelism.
- We have left the era of brand-voiced assertions of performance, and entered a time when trust is paramount and earning it is a requirement for success. Invoking the transparency word in a sentence isn’t nearly as powerful as backing it up with authentic behaviors and actions.
If you’re exploring the power of transparency and would like to know more details about this case study and the tactics, activation and media we deployed, let’s find a time to talk.
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact [email protected] and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.