Monday, November 21, 2011

In the age of transparency, don’t even try to lie

Several incidents/conversations/articles over the past couple of weeks have underscored for me that we really are living in the age of transparency. There’s no use in trying to lie, cover up, or even claim that your store has the best price—the power of Google will soon reveal the truth.

Transparency in communications
For example, as a grad student in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University, I’m currently working on a project looking at how nations brand themselves. My research uncovered a video in which nation branding guru Simon Anholt declares that propaganda no longer works in today’s media-saturated world. After thinking about this for a few seconds, I realized that what he was getting at is that no matter what a government entity might tell you, a simple search of the Web will uncover the truth. Even North Koreans, who for the most part are isolated from the rest of the world, receive snippets of news here and there that contradict the constant stream of propaganda they are subjected to by their government. In fact, by the 1990s, news that South Koreans actually enjoyed a much better standard of living than their northern counterparts had reached so much of the North Korean population that the government had to revise its message around South Korea.

Transparency in retailing
We’re just a few days away from Black Friday and the start of the holiday shopping season, and this AdAge article demonstrates how incredibly competitive retailing has become with the widespread use of smart phones. The author notes some stats from comScore Q2 2011 State of US Online Retail Economy: 40 percent of smartphone owners use their phones to comparison shop while shopping at retail locations. What's more, 14% have actually abandoned their in-store purchase to buy the item from their smartphone while standing in the store. No doubt, retailers can only expect these numbers to increase. With a price check just a few clicks away, what’s a retailer to do? If you can’t beat ‘em, ask your customers for help, the article’s author suggests. Use social media to encourage shoppers to check in for special discounts and to share their in-store experience with friends via Facebook and Twitter. He argues that social traffic will drive online traffic, which will lead to more in-store sales. Needless to say, it will be interesting for us marketers to see how this Black Friday, which is beginning earlier than ever and will be the most networked ever, turns out for bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Transparency in the job search
Late last week, I met with one of my professors to ask for advice on my job search (I’m graduating in just a few weeks!). As we talked about networking, she advised tapping into the vast networks of all of my professors. For any particular company I’m interested in, surely one of them knows someone who knows someone who knows someone at the company. “Get your resume into the hands of someone who can pass it along to a hiring manager, and your chances of scoring an interview will increase,” she advised. Of course, this networking works in reverse as well.  With a few clicks, a hiring manager can check LinkedIn to find someone who knows someone who knows me. It’s the Kevin Bacon game of the business world, and your reputation is oftentimes more insightful than your resume. Manage it carefully.

Transparency in dating
Finally, Google undid my most recent romance. In the most stunning example of the web's transparency (and chutzpah), I found out that my new boyfriend was actually married (and for less than two months). There were his wedding photos, invitations, registries, even a video. Wow. Seriously, how long did he think he could hide this little fact from me? Needless to say, I kicked him to the curb. Lesson learned: Always Google your new love interest.

The moral of these stories: It doesn’t pay to lie, cover up, inflate or exaggerate. Not in today’s world, where your claims can be checked out in 0.24 seconds.

-- Kaylene Riemen, MS IMC 2011, Northwestern University, @kayleneriemen

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog but be sure to tell the reader the importance for marketers. It is a strong story - especially in todays linked in society and there are significant marketing implications.

    Establish both your expertise and emphasize the key things you want us to learn and it will be a great blog.