Nobody’s perfect. Not even brands. But in today’s world, brands aren’t expected to be perfect.
Challenging times (the economy) see people craving care, empathy, sympathy and generosity. It has them longing to see the human side of brands and institutions that care. This coupled with a young, online culture of individuals who share, give, engage, create and collaborate in vast numbers…. look for an emergence of businesses that are more socially, ethically and environmentally responsible. Businesses that present transparency, personality and celebrate their flaws will win. Out of touch institutions that ignore this societal/behavioral shift will die.
Part of the human touch is transparency, which will continue to be a key business theme for 2012. From individuals sharing online, to the visualization of previously invisible data (à la Wikileaks), prepare for a world in which everything (attitudes, prices, quality, behavior, etc.) will be completely accessible and therefore potentially outed as ‘flawed’ if hidden. So, with consumers likely to find out everything about your products, services and activities anyway, brands have no option but to embrace, if not celebrate, their flaws and all.
Moreover, consumers are aware that personality and profit can be compatible. Think Zappos, Patagonia, Tom’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Michel et Augustin, etc. – these businesses succeed while remaining ethical, responsible, fun or even somewhat human, and consumers will become increasingly disenchanted when dealing with traditional, boring, impersonal brands.