Supplement Brand Transparency: Think TV Series, Not Movie

Brand transparency is now one of the top five attributes for supplement brands. According to our PureSegmentation™ research, the other attributes are safe, trusted, pure/clean, and reliable. Claiming you are a transparent supplement company has become a cost of entry. Saying you are transparent is one thing, but showing you are and demonstrating your transparency is another.

When we talk to our clients about transparency, no one argues its value. Our research conclusively shows that key supplement consumer segments perceive transparent brands as more efficacious and are willing to spend more for those brands.

However, what supplement companies worry about, especially larger legacy brands, is how much time, effort, and money it will take to become fully transparent. Many are concerned it will cause them to reveal proprietary information they don’t want their competition to discover. They become overwhelmed when they review their sourcing, supply chain, manufacturing process, and number of SKUs.

They think becoming fully transparent will take years of time, effort, and resources. They worry that revealing some progress along the way will bring to light practices that might call into question prior claims. They reason that it is better to reveal all when everything is ready.

They believe becoming fully transparent is like making a major motion picture—years in the making, one all-encompassing story, and expensive. You release it once and hope it makes an impact.

When discussing transparency programs, we advise brands to stop thinking about their big movie. Instead, we recommend they approach transparency as if it were a television series, metaphorically speaking.

TV Series vs. Movie

The fundamental difference between a TV series and a movie is the scope of the storytelling. A movie tells one complete story, and a series tells multiple shorter, interconnected stories. Each episode can be either standalone (episodic) or part of a continuous storyline (serialized) that unfolds sequentially and features a core group of characters throughout the series.

While viewers expect movies to have a beginning, middle, and end, a self-contained story, well-crafted TV series set up the rules and expectations for storytelling. Viewers know that the beginning could be a continuation of the prior episode, and the end can be a cliffhanger for the next episode.

But here is the key: no one expects a series to reveal everything in one episode. Viewers anticipate a lengthy engagement filled with big and small surprises, emotional moments, and a degree of anticipation for the next episode. We’ve all had the experience of not wanting a beloved series to end and being sad or “going through withdrawal” when it inevitably does.

Setting Up Your Transparency Series

The first step is to gather the key stakeholders from executive leadership, QC, R&D, manufacturing, sales, and marketing to gain alignment on the purpose and vision of transparency. Next is to determine the level of commitment to transparency. How much are you prepared to reveal? What will be the impacts on the organization? What do you need to withhold? How transparent can you be about what is withheld?

A critical topic for discussion is how to communicate what is current and what is aspirational. For example, Patagonia often shares how it falls short in reaching its goals, and this more vulnerable approach creates a greater sense of transparency for the brand. Pure Branding research shows that for almost half of supplement users, there is no downside to admitting a mistake. In fact, a quarter of them would have higher regard for the brand for doing so.

This initial work sets up the “big picture” for the series.

Nature, Process, Humanity

The next step is to identify what matters to your consumers. What practices do they want to be revealed transparently? After all, to gain an audience for your series, you need to know what they want to watch.

In Pure Branding’s Supplement Consumer PureSegmentation Research, we identified the most important practices. They can be grouped into three areas: nature, process, and humanity.

Nature has to do with demonstrating the organization’s connection to the natural world, particularly sustainability. It is about growing, sourcing, distribution, and environmental practices.

Process is about labeling, testing, standards, proof of quality, documentation, and scientific validation.

Humanity is about corporate behavior concerning factory conditions, employment practices, human rights, and the organization’s culture.

Low-Hanging Fruit

In every organization there are areas that are ready for transparency. There are examples within each area that will resonate more strongly than others. These will be the first episodes in your series.

We know a small example of transparency can greatly impact the overall perception of brand transparency. For example, telling the story about the sourcing of a single ingredient—the farm where it was grown or the village that relies on its harvest—can make a strong and lasting impression that carries over to the entire organization.

It is important that this particular story makes no claim that all ingredients are sourced similarly, but it demonstrates that the brand is willing to show how it cares, not just that it does care.

It is also a great episode.

Emotion over Motion

The genesis of the word “movie” is “moving picture.” What excited people at the turn of the twentieth century was seeing a recorded sequence of images displayed on a screen at a rate sufficiently fast to create the appearance of motion or moving.

In many corporate videos, you see bottles being filled along an assembly line. You see people in lab coats looking through a microscope, tractors in fields, and machines mixing formulas. There is lots of movement, and all good, except the emphasis is on motion and not emotion.

Some traceability programs allow consumers to view a purchased product’s batch details, as well as where, when, and how the ingredients were grown and tested. These programs can engender trust in a process, and when consumers engage in this for one product, it often means they feel confident enough that they don’t need to check on another product. But these are facts with no emotion.

The goal of a great transparency program is not just to inform and gain trust but to enthuse and delight your customers and prospects.

A great transparency program can go beyond just transparency to create an emotional attachment that makes consumers want to revisit the brand over and over again.

A great transparency program is like a successful TV series, where your consumers look forward to the next episode and don’t expect it to reveal all.

Are you ready to start your transparency series?