In its monthly trend briefing for March, the consumer trend tracking firm Trendwatching is covering a new trend that demonstrates why businesses who truly embrace their flaws will come out on top, and why those who don't are likely to suffer from consumer indifference and maybe even disdain.
As a result of the steady streams of available reviews, ratings, articles, Facebook and Twitter recommendations, consumers are awash in information about the best and the worst of what companies are doing. Consumers are smart. They know that companies aren't perfect - just like people aren't perfect. And now that they're finding out about corporate missteps at every turn, consumers are embracing the companies that are brave enough to openly share their mistakes and engage with consumers about their challenges. In its catchy yet cringeworthy way of naming trends, Trendwatching has dubbed this one "Flawsome."
Consumers want to see brands eliciting more human-like traits by showing empathy and humility, and by demonstrating that they've got the character to improve and learn from their mistakes. It makes sense. These are qualities that we admire in people, and they are admirable qualities in companies as well. Flaws give people character, and they give brands character too. "Flawsome" brands - those that can own this kind of vulnerability and use it to their advantage - stand to benefit from this trend.
Here are a few more reasons why companies need to embrace this kind of transparency and get on board with the "flawsome" trend.
1) Consumers know that companies can be profitable, socially conscious, and likable at the same time.
Companies like Zappos, Patagonia, and Ben & Jerry's are showing consumers that it is possible to succeed while being honest and reasonable, maintaining a helpful attitude, being great employers, and giving back to the community. The more that do, the less consumers will want to deal with secretive, corporate, dull and impersonal brands. According to a study from Havas Media, most people wouldn't care if 70% of brands ceased to exist.
2) Negative information is going to get out anyway.
Thanks to the pervasiveness of online customer reviews, copious opportunities to complain via social media, viral videos, and the wikileaks organizations out there, it's absolutely inevitable that company blunders will be aired in public. But, if these issues are handled well, they can bolster customer loyalty, create an even more impressive positive buzz online, and solidify the company's positive reputation. Maritz Research did a survey which found that among consumers who were contacted by a company after complaining about them on Twitter, 83% liked or loved that the brand responded, and 85% were satisfied with the response.
3) People broadcast their lives online and expect companies to do the same.
Increasingly, consumers are communicating with each other via online channels where information is raw and uncensored and travels extremely fast. They're expecting companies to communicate with them in this way as well. It's no longer acceptable for companies to take a few days to issue a well-crafted press release. Consumers want to know what companies are doing via constant, open and authentic dialogue.
4) Consumers know that flawlessness is an illusion.
By nature, we're are skeptical of people who attempt to come off as if they're perfect. People have a hard time connecting with those who don't show some vulnerability and try to appear as if they have no flaws or weaknesses. It's only natural that people should feel this way about brands as well. Likewise, consumers know that no company's products can satisfy everyone. They also know that mistakes happen and are able to judge whether a company has sufficiently rectified an issue. If a company does this successfully, then their consumers can have confidence in knowing that if they have a problem, it will also be resolved.
Flaws give people character. When embraced and managed thoughtfully, they can give companies character too.
Kara Scharwath is a corporate social responsibility professional, marketing consultant and Sustainable Management MBA Candidate. She is currently working as a Graduate Associate in Corporate Citizenship at the Walt Disney Company while pursuing her degree at Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on Twitter @karameredith.
Kara is a corporate social responsibility professional and marketing consultant with expertise in consumer research and environmental science. Currently, Kara is working as a Graduate Associate on the <a href="http://corporate.disney.go.com/citizenship2010/">Corporate Citizenship</a> team at the Walt Disney Company. She is also a founding partner of <a href=http://besui.com/">BeSui Consulting</a>, a boutique marketing consulting firm specializing in consumer insights and marketing communications.
Kara graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in <a href="http://admissions.rutgers.edu/Academics/AcademicContent.aspx?CAMPUS=New… Policy, Institutions and Behaviors</a>. She is currently pursuing her M.B.A. in Sustainable Management from <a href'"http://www.presidioedu.org/">Presidio Graduate School</a> where she is exploring the impact investing space and working to identify new ways to increase access to capital for start-ups and social ventures. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/karameredith">@karameredith</a>.