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Advertising and communication in a world of transparency

Helio Mattar President, Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption Sincerity comes from the Latin sin cera, an expression used to characterise the quality of clay jars that did not crack when drying in the sun. For this reason, there was no need to hide these cracks with wax before the jars were painted. Sin means without and cera means wax. Therefore, sin cera means that which is integral, whole, that has nothing to hide. In a world of transparency, where mass media and the internet, especially the digital networks, are very fast to show the actions and omissions of a company, which imply the values that guide its behaviour, companies are condemned to sincerity, that is to an undisguised relationship with their stakeholders. If one agrees with Michael Porter in his statement that business social responsibility has to do with the simultaneous creation of value for business and society, recent studies show that we still have a long way to go in order to achieve consumer credibility and sincerity in the company objectives and communication.

The study Business Social Responsibility Perception of the Brazilian Consumer 2010, published by Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption and the Ethos Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility, reveals that only 13% of the Brazilian consumers believe that companies do what they say they do in terms of social and environmental responsibility. 44% of the consumers do not believe at all and 43% believe depending on the company or the media. (parei aqui) The same was found in an Ibope survey, in which 46% of consumers stated that the brands that do something for society and the environment do so only as a marketing action. At the same time, the study published by Akatu and Ethos Institutes reveals that 78% of consumers are interested in knowing what the companies are doing in the social and environmental areas, which, compared with the above data, points to a gap between the consumers desire for information and the companies capacity to inform its actions in such areas with credibility. The companies will only have credibility with the consumers if their social and environmental actions are a direct reflection of their beliefs and ethical values and not only periodic efforts or fragmented initiatives of contributing to a better society. The maxim of Caesars wife is inverted, who considered it was not enough to be honest but had to appear honest: in the case of companies, it is not enough for them to appear honest but must in fact be honest.

Considering that the starting point is sincerity, the best instrument for companies to cultivate the trust of the middleman is to dialogue with their various stakeholders consumers, employees, suppliers, community, environmental and social organisations. Perfection is not expected in this process because in fact it is an unachievable ideal in the terrain of human beings and relations. It is however expected to be a transparent dialogue in which the company informs that it believes it does well, what it believes it does not do so well demonstrating the intention of doing its best and what it believes it is failing to do, then committing itself to do so in time. At the same time, the company is willing to listen to and understand the view of each stakeholder concerning its actions and to sincerely express before each criticism or suggestion received, its restrictions and possible actions. When gaining the trust of its stakeholders, they will act as positive media for the company, with the benefit that in this case praise from another is always more effective in attracting loyal consumers to the brand than praising itself. Advertising may play a complementary role in this dialogue. To do so, it shall go beyond its traditional actions of selling goods and creating a brand image, with little or no relationship to what the company believes, to playing a more strategic role of disseminating the ethical values actually adopted by the company in its relationships. This is a new equation of advertising and communication, in which both act together to create a trusting relationship between the

company and opinion makers, continuously showing the actions and sincerity of the companys proposals in adding value for society.