Jeff Swatz, the Chief Executive and President of Timberland cites that the only way to build a brand is by making the consumer feel part of the brand before promoting its prospects. This occurred when he was being interviewed by John Russell on the reasons why brands must engage consumers on social issues that rebuild the lost trust between consumers and Brands. . In other words, keeping every promise made to the consumer will go a long way in building their confidence in these hard economic times.
The anti- capitalist G20 summit protests in April in London has made Brands to wake up to the reality of what consumers truly feel about the global economic recession. As such, , Timberland is working at answering the questions that most consumers ask; the safety and the truth about a brand. Timberland is therefore tapping from the social network it has amassed with consumers over the last many years to pull through the current financial crises.
The pillars of building trust with consumers include ethical sourcing and transparent reporting on Timberlands environmental and social performance even on non financial matters such as putting up craftily made ads. Arguably, the government has a role in giving incentive for creating low carbon economies to compaies given that individual companies do not have the capacity to fully engage the consumers on advocacy issues. The incapacitation of the companies at advocacy issues is the reason Timberland prefers to sit on the pews and await government action on such matters, lest they arouse the public anger and destroy their own public relations.
Discussion and Examples about the Case
Transparency does not come easy and Timberland is learning how to remain transparent before their consumers in a socially acceptable manner. This is achieved by working on sustainable human rights and by using biodegradable and recyclable materials for making products.
Although global financial recession is a big blow to brands, the company leaders have a choice to develop their brands by placing customers’ satisfaction on the top of their agenda. This is the only opportunity that is available for developing and reconnecting to the already disillusioned consumers.
In the face of competition it helps to put up edgy ads. Timberland for example, placed an ad headlined ‘We build things that last. Maybe be we should go into the banking business’. Although this sounds like a mockery to the banking sector that is dooing badly financially, it speaks to the consumers on brands they can trust. This is also worth noting for any brand that wants to succeed is the prevailing social and environmental issues. This provides a leeway on which to catch the consumers’ attention. The pertinent issues of carbon emission control, environmental concerns, and human rights issues are top agendas that all should endeavor to satisfactorily address. Timberland has achieved this by labeling products with their environmental commitment statement. The company has also explicitly detailed the environmental impact of every product and the child labor record of the company.
Customer confidence and trust is built by being transparent to them. When Timberland started on a virtual tree planting campaign to conserve the environment, the outcomes of people participating in the exercise was more than had been anticipated; one million pledges of virtual trees in total. The company later had to explain to the disappointed participants what had actually happened. Lack of transparency is the easiest way to break public relations with the consumers.
The consumers should also be kept in the know of the sustainability of the business and the business responsibilities. This is attained by managing ethical risks in the supply chain.