There was a time when marketing and advertising had a reputation of misdirection if not outright trickery. But the advent of people-based marketing has put the customer in control of when and how they choose to engage with brands, and has made the idea of transparency paramount in marketing.
And given the key role data now has in marketing, transparency in consumer data privacy and security goes beyond best practices and into the realm of regulations that marketers have to adhere to.
Transparency is even seen as a way the digital advertising industry can combat two very real and specific challenges currently facing the space: ad fraud and the adoption of ad blocking technology. Last year Steve Sullivan, vp of partner success at Index Exchange, told Marketing Dive, “A fully transparent, traceable supply chain that allows identification of all parties to a transaction is the only way to substantially reduce fraud.”
Adrienne Weissman, CMO at G2 Crowd, a peer-to-peer business review platform, says the best way to tackle transparency in marketing to do so through what she calls "naked marketing."
"Naked marketing is simply being totally transparent and exposed with how your customers are talking about you," she told Marketing Dive.
Weissman’s take on marketing transparency is centered around the importance of customer feedback and how brands are exposed by public reviews. Whether brands like that exposure or not, people find great value in those reviews. Which goes back to the rise of people-based marketing. As the consumer shopping journey continues to evolve and power shifts back to the shopper's hands, marketers have to be ready to both put their audience first and also take a totally transparent path.
Thinking like a 'naked' marketer
The first step toward becoming a naked marketer is simply to be transparent about a brand's products and services. Taking on that mindset, brands stand to benefit from the reviews and information-sharing customers partake in, be it in-person or online.
"Brands that are engaged in naked marketing are thinking about how and why they want to engage with all of their customers," Weissman said, adding that that includes any unsavory feedback customers might have. "There is not one brand that has only happy customers. It's common sense. You cannot make everyone happy. Don't be afraid of the less-than-happy customer."
Marketers shouldn’t just look to their best customers for feedback. Unhappy customers might be able to shed light on issues that brands and products teams weren't aware of, and negative reviews, for instance, can serve as a learning experience.
"Regardless of the variety of feedback, it is a highly valued resource. Leverage, use it, share it," Weissman explained.
To really integrate naked marketing into a brand's strategy, Weissman suggests finding ways to weave customers and their feedback into marketing conversations. By tapping into customers' word-of-mouth messaging about the brand, marketers can see what's working and what's not.
The best mindset to have is looking at customer reviews of any kind as something of which to take advantage. And the place to begin in making the best use of customer reviews is, according to Weissman, by having a review strategy in place from the outset.
"Make sure you are engaged with the different places your potential customers are searching and finding you (there are usually multiple places)," she said. "Openly engage with those that leave reviews. Prospective buyers like to see a brand engage and responding to both good and bad feedback."
Because customers are going to be writing reviews and talking about brands online, marketers should at least be aware of those conversations -- ignoring the conversations doesn’t make them go away.
By not engaging in naked marketing, Weissman said marketers miss out on real opportunities happening before people get into the marketing funnel or messaging stream.
"If you’re not engaged and active, there are conversations that are happening that you are not aware of and could potentially blindside you down the road," she said. "Naked marketing helps brands and products stay ahead of the curve and provide better customer service. Ultimately, leading to more satisfied customers."
Managing brand reputations with naked marketing
An additional benefit of having a reputation for transparency is it can help mitigate a brand or reputation crisis. Naked marketing establishes an expectation, Weissman pointed out. When buyers see that a company engages with their customers and even encourages them to share reviews, it lets them know the brand is committed to improving the customer experience.
"It helps a buyer understand the values they are purchasing, " she said. The shopper at that point has seen the good and bad about the product, but they've also seen the honest interaction between the company and the customer.
“When a company has demonstrated a transparent approach to business through naked marketing, they have already established equity in the space,” she said. “When a crisis occurs, the public is more comfortable with accepting that the ‘naked’ company is working in the best interests of those affected.”
Allowing the customer to see these interactions fosters realistic expectations for performance when they purchase products, and Weissman said that “gives the company a better opportunity to exceed those expectations and establish a loyal customer.”
Marketing to buyers is becoming more challenging given how well-informed shoppers have become. Consumers expect strong, personal customer service, and Weissman’s concept of naked marketing can be an effective element for brands looking to build loyalty through a customer-centric marketing strategy.
"The easiest way to the best results is simple: have a good product, deliver killer customer service and showcase how all of what your customers think of you," she said. "Your customers are your greatest assets, use them."