The Transparent Brand — How To Put Trust back into Economics to Avoid Disasters
Do you believe in win-win-win solutions?
You know, the kind of solutions to problems where everyone working on the solution benefits?
Of course you do. That’s why you are reading this site. You aren’t trying to make a buck at the expense of everyone else because we know that’s insane.
We try to make win-win-win decisions as often as we can in our daily lives and we expect others to do the same.
Despite the importance of win-win-win solutions, we’ve started to accept much less when it comes to what we buy from the global economy.
Our economic lives are much more shallow than they once were, due to the fact that almost all of our current economic relationships are with anonymous strangers. It wasn’t always this way.
A little less than a hundred years ago, nearly everyone knew the people who grew, built or retailed the products we bought. We expected them to do a good job and not to cheat us, and if they wanted to stay in business for long, they didn’t. As a result, we learned to trust them.
Unfortunately, as the economy grew to a national and then a global system, the economy became too complex to get the information on who and how the products we bought were being sold to us.
As a result of this seemingly insurmountable information problem, we learned to accept economic anonymity as how it should be, and with it our ability to find win-win-win economic solutions and the trusted companies that make them.
Well, the good news is that this information problem has been solved. It’s now possible, through the use of computers, the Internet, and smart phones, to find all of the information needed to determine whether a company is delivering a win-win-win solution or not. A good early example of this is the online fashion company Everlane.
This company has built a brand based on transparency.
They do this by sharing as much information as possible with their customers so that they can make the most informed decisions possible. Specifically, they provide customers with a detailed breakdown of the costs incurred in making the products they sell or their mark-up if its a fully assembled product, with the goal of providing a reasonably priced product with a low mark-up.
Everlane is also a pioneer in providing customers with information on how the product they want to buy is produced. The company inspects every factory they buy from to ensure that the people making the product and the process being used is producing prosperity for all involved. Why? To make sure everybody that contributed to the economic transaction being successful wins.
When that doesn’t happen and all of the details of the economics involved remain anonymous, we get events like Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.
In that tragedy, a stunning 1,219 garment workers were lost when the condemned building they were forced to work in collapsed upon their heads.
I don’t want to do business with people that make this sort of thing possible. I don’t think you do either.
Fortunately, we have the technology now to change this forever.
The first step is to only do business with companies that are transparent (a vague code of conduct isn’t enough).
The second is to let everyone else know it is possible to conduct business on a win-win-win basis.
Don’t think it is possible? I don’t believe that for a second.
Americans naturally gravitate to win-win-win.
We want to grow pie and raise all of the boats. We have a deep desire to help people who want to help themselves.
It’s in our nature.
Yet, we don’t actively pursue this anymore when it comes to our economic lives.
We expect the government or the marketplace to auto-magically determine what is right and wrong, and enforce compliance with that judgement.
That’s nuts. It doesn’t work.
You can’t outsource moral behavior to the marketplace or the government. It’s something you need to take control of in your daily life.
One step towards making this possible are companies that operate transparently. A transparent company puts you in charge of right or wrong. It doesn’t hide the information behind a corporate veil.
This isn’t hard for a company to do. The information technology we have today makes it easy for every customer to see everything that went into every product they are buying, just by clicking on their cell phone.
It just takes the demand from people like you and me to make them implement it.
Let’s keep an eye on Everlane.
Already, it seems to be working. The company’s sales continue to grow, despite the lack of gimmicks like sales or promotions or advertising traditionally used to get customers in the door.
We can also see it in the growing amount of press coverage the brand is getting (news headlines per month).
The success of Everlane and other companies that are using technology to become transparent brands is not just a flash in the pan.
It’s part of the shift to a new type of economy.
An economy based on trust, integrity, and win-win-win solutions. The information and due diligence these companies are providing us is actually resetting the expectations we have for our economic relationships.
This is a rediscovery of the American Way, and everyone in the world will benefit from when it is made commonplace.