When it comes to how brands interact with their customers, it’s no longer enough to simply know and use a demographic, or target a certain audience. More than ever, consumers want to know that the brands and companies they’re buying from align with their personal beliefs. Gone are the days when companies could avoid talking politics at any cost. Today, the future of CPG brands is dependent on transparency, and a brands’ stance on issues their customers find important.
Consider the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. After the shooting, there was a social outcry for brands of all types and sizes to cut ties with the National Rifle Association. Consumers didn’t want to support companies that bought into something they strongly opposed. In a recent Forbes article, Aaron Kwittken explained the phenomenon, noting that,
“People don’t just buy good products, they buy from good companies and from companies that do good. Doing good is no longer reserved for social entrepreneurs like Tom’s or Patagonia — its finally hitting the mainstream. Unfortunately, tragedies like Parkland and #metoo movements have had to serve as a catalyst for mainstream brands to re-center themselves on social good.”
However, a catalyst like Parkland is not always necessary. Millennial and Gen Z buyers are especially interested in the beliefs behind big corporations. A recent study by The Hartman Group showed that 70% of consumers want more transparency from the brands they buy from, especially when it comes to sustainability efforts. Additionally, 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for a brand that is known to be making a positive social impact. It’s also important to note that the word “sustainable” has expanded to mean more than just concern for the environment. Sustainability now relates to fair labor practices and animal welfare as well.
You might be wondering, well, what exactly does “transparency” mean? Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group sums it up well:
“Transparency is more than enabling a moral evaluation of trustworthiness for brands; it is a way for companies to reveal details about production and sourcing that enable consumers to find higher-quality distinctions otherwise concealed in conventionally marketed branded commodities.”
Transparency for CPG brands in the digital world we live in can make or break them. Brands can no longer fly under the radar, or use social media platforms to simply advertise and sell their products. They need to engage and connect meaningfully with their customers, showing them that they understand them on a larger level. In fact, 57% of buyers will buy or boycott a company based on their stance on social and political issues.
A brand that is completely embracing transparency right now is Brandless. Founded in July of 2017, Brandless is devoted to simple, “brandless” packaging that allows them to stick to a $3 price point for everything on their site. Brandless is making grocery shopping online affordable, easy, and of course, well-intentioned.
The Brandless mission statement: Here at Brandless we put people first, which means value and values stick together. Better stuff, fewer dollars, no nonsense.
When you visit the Brandless website, you will quickly find that they are hard at work making this mission prominent for their customers. Brandless lists all of their beliefs and practices on their About page, and shoppers can see at a glance that they are environmentally-friendly, organic, ethical, and socially active. Additionally, they partnered with Feeding America, so that every time a purchase is made on the Brandless site, a meal is donated to someone in need. They also make a point to note that as the company grows, its positive footprint will grow with it.
A look through the Brandless Twitter will show you that they are not only an environmentally and socially conscious company, but they use their platform to educate others about their beliefs. They create blog posts, YouTube videos, and tweets to show their buyers that they truly get it.
What does EPA Safer Choice Certified mean, and why should you care? Brandless cleaning products adhere to the strictest performance and nontoxic, safer-chemical standards set by the EPA. #springcleaning https://t.co/Hnsc7Ahcgx
— Brandless (@brandless) April 24, 2018
But transparency is not just for up and coming companies like Brandless. Legacy companies are rethinking and restructuring in order to be more transparent and align with their customers, too. General Mills recently publicly committed to sustainability, especially as it relates to farming and climate change. Founded in 1865, General Mills owns many well-known and well-loved food brands, including Häagen-Dazs, Annie’s Organic, and Betty Crocker.
The General Mills mission statement: We serve the world by making food people love.
When consumers visit the General Mills website, they are greeted by a commitment to sustainability, and blog posts illustrating the company’s long history and commitment to people, the environment, and of course, good food. Front and center is an explanation that 67% of the corn used by General Mills is farmed sustainability, and they are on course to make that 100% by 2020. The General Mills blog is also full of educational content promoting sustainability in all forms.
A look through the General Mills social channels, Twitter especially, shows customers their mission statement in action. The level of commitment General Mills put into not just improving the environment, but to public outreach and giving back to those in need is obvious from even a cursory glance through their account.
Today, we released our 2018 Global Responsibility Report. The annual report describes our strategies and performance across four key focus areas: Our Food, Our Planet, Our Workplace and Our Community. https://t.co/AxYaTOV15v #sustainability #corporateresponsibility pic.twitter.com/9qkVGPmdY1
— General Mills (@GeneralMills) April 19, 2018
From a donation that helped make a dream come true for a high school marching band to thanking military service members with care packages, General Mills, @Cheerios and @Walmart just wrapped up “Moments of Good.” https://t.co/gop2QYQkXc #momentsofgood #onemillionactsofgood pic.twitter.com/LpjotDjNHT
— General Mills (@GeneralMills) April 11, 2018
General Mills CEO, Ken Powell, reported that demand from employees and consumers is what led the brand to make a change, stating that customers “want to know that the company that makes [their] food shares [their] values.”
A study by Shopkick explained the importance of General Mills announcing their renewed commitments to their consumers:
“General Mills made its announcement not as a means of tooting its own horn, but instead to double down on a private commitment. By publicly stating that they were planning to reduce their environmental impact, they made it clear that they were dedicated to the cause.”
As consumers and companies continue to move forward in a world as connected as ours, it becomes clearer every day that brands old and new need to be up front and transparent with their customers. Mission and vision statements are no longer just words confined to corporate conference rooms; they need to be brought to life by the company and embraced by the consumer in the digital space they both inevitably inhabit.