Marketing transparency as a competitive advantage

Picture of a photographer through a window (source:

Transparent is always better [photo source:]

As social media burst onto the scene as a game-changer for marketing several years ago, a lot of focus was placed on the need for brands to be transparent, authentic and accountable in their interactions. Those have always been hallmarks of good business practices, but what had changed was that social media made it easy to shine a spotlight with equal fervor on honest mistakes, bad processes and corporate malfeasance.

So now that social media has become so ingrained in everyday life, it has become equally a part of marketing and the need to be transparent, authentic and accountable has certainly not gone away.

My colleague in Australia, Daniel Aunvig, recently wrote about this topic on our sister blog, Left of the Date Line as Transparency is the new currency in marketing. In his post he lists 3 ways that transparency can be a leveraged as a competitive advantage:

  1. Employing customer intelligence to create an understanding of the customer journey across channels
    Customers expect to be recognised across channels and a key requirement for any relationship building is to understand the complete cross-channel journey. Only by gaining that level of understanding will you be able to give your customers the best overall experience throughout the lifecycle of their relationships with you. In general, customers are perfectly willing to exchange their information with a commercial organisation provided they enjoy something in return. This means better and more relevant offers, improved service and more personalised attention. Customers understand and accept the logic of exchanging information but is your organisation ready for the part it must play?
  2. Allowing customers to leverage your intelligence capabilities to make more informed decisions for themselves
    Examples could be: telecommunications customers exploring and visualising historical call and network data to understand what plans are best suited for their individual needs; or banking customers analysing historical financial transactions to figure out trends and their preferred investment product options. If your organisation is serious about competing on long term value creation, this transparency shouldn’t be a scary. In fact, with today’s increasing hunger for digital self-service, such initiatives are more likely to create a valuable differentiating factor.
  3. Creating new revenue streams based on your customer and market insights
    What if your customer and marketing intelligence became so rich and granular that it could actually offer value to other organisations? Could you create new revenue streams based on your customer data and your direct marketing platform? For example, telecommunications carriers around world are realising that the data and reach they have are invaluable and would be the envy of any retail marketer starting to build new business models and extend current ones. Think also of media companies and what they know about trending topics and the diffusion of information, both your own and generally. Then ask what other businesses could use that information and enjoy the reach of a publishing company; within the boundaries of appropriate privacy, of course.

I agree with Daniel's view of transparency in part because it's what I wish for as a consumer and have become increasingly vocal about wanting it. A good case in point is my own family's journey with communications and content at home - the "triple play" offers of TV + internet + phone no longer appeal to us so we've cut out cable TV and now get streaming content on the internet. The heart of our issue is the hundreds of TV channels we never watched because of service bundling and the lack of transparency that underlies that outdated business practice.

I also believe that there's another aspect of transparency that needs to come into play in order for it to become a competitive advantage and that's internal transparency. By that I mean cross-departmental transparency about data, how it's managed and the needed changes to processes and reporting structures that will enable the entire organization to develop those 3 aspects of transparency as a competitive advantage. And all 3 aspects of transparency are based on the intelligent use of big data with applied marketing analytics.

Consider your own marketing organization and how much customers and the marketplace have changed in the last 5 years - how much have your processes and reporting structures changed?

Another great view of these ideas was put forth by another colleague, Lisa Loftis, who wrote this paper, Beyond the Campaign: Leading Marketing into the Future. Go ahead and register for this paper - I promise it's worth reading.

As always, thanks for following!


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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