How transparent is your brand?

Have you seen the new Miracle Whip commercial that asks “which side are you on – do you love it or hate it”?  The spot features celebrities such as Pauly D from the Jersey Short and politico James Carville plus several supposedly regular folks giving their opinion about whether they love Miracle Whip or dislike it. The commercial finishes with a call to action to try it and decide for yourself. Would you be willing to feature your best customers along side of customers who have had a bad experience with your brand in an advertisement?  Not every brand is willing to be that transparent, but I would argue that the best brands are willing to bare it all and address concerns when they arise.  It happens every day online where customers post their opinions both positive and negative about brands with they have experienced. It is hard to imagine that there are still brand managers and CEO’s that have not been willing to engage customers with online forums for fear of negative comments being posted about their brand on their company’s blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed. We tell our clients that this conversation is happening whether they are willing to participate or not. If your brand has a goal to provide a great product or fantastic customer service, you should seek to find any problems and address the opportunities to make it better. For some clients, the first step is to begin to listen to the conversation using tools such as Cision to understand what people are saying about your brand on thousands of blogs and websites. This allows companies to react quickly if there is an issue with their product or services.  But the best brands engage consumers online and in social media and are willing to let customers post complaints, but are willing and prepared to respond immediately to find solutions and reduce pain points for their customers. I believe customers prefer to see all sides of a brand or product and then form their own opinions about whether the company has solved the problem or has not yet addressed it.  These posts can also help your natural or organic search. If you do allow customers to post on your site (s), I would advise you to make sure your brand remains “authentic.”  Make sure the comments that are posted on your site or blog are real and not too filtered. You can edit out the profanity and the real outliers, but you should not edit out all of the negative comments. Consumers want to see all sides of a brand. The Miracle Whip commercial contains statements that are supposed to be from real customers, but the content seems more scripted than unprompted.  One customer says “it’s like spreading disappointment,” while another says “ I would not use it in my hair.”  This does not sound very authentic to me.  Consumers have developed very strong b.s. detectors, so make sure you keep it real. In this new world of online personal publishing, customers own brands as much as the corporations who create them.  I would urge you to embrace the power of the web and facilitate the conversation about your brand online.  While you may get some negative comments, if you are striving for improvement, you will ultimately improve your product or brand experience if you are willing to listen and react. If you do, these same consumers will help spread the word about how your brand is listening to its customers.