NEW YORK (MainStreet) — As hard as it is for people to admit mistakes, it’s arguably more difficult for businesses – and particularly publicly traded companies – to say they were wrong, but according to one group that tracks consumer trends, companies will increasingly be rewarded for coming clean next year.
“In 2012, consumers won’t expect brands to be flawless; they will even embrace brands that are flawsome,” according to a new report from Trendwatching, a global trends firm, that offers its predictons for the 12 biggest new consumer trends of 2012. These focus mainly on innovations in how people shop, who businesses market to and what new strategies companies can use to engage with their customer bases. The need for brands to be more transparent about their flaws ties into the last of these three.
As Trendwatching points out, it’s no longer enough for businesses to be seen as abstract entities. Instead brands should be “honest about their flaws, show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor and dare we say it, some character and humanity,” the report says. In this way businesses can confront any consumer frustrations head-on and potentially build a greater sense of connection with their customer bases.
A few businesses have already dabbled in this approach. Trendwatching highlights the example of Dominos Pizza, which earlier this year rented a billboard in Times Square and live-streamed its customer feedback on Twitter – both the good and the bad.
More recently, some big-name tech companies have been even more explicit in opening up about their flaws. Just this week, Facebook’s CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg responded to news that the company had settled privacy complaints with the FTC by writing, “I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes.” Likewise, in September the CEO of Netflix issued a similarly candid statement in response to a failed attempt to split the company in two, telling subscribers and investors that, “I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.”
Just how much this helps or hurts sales is unclear, but if Trendwatching is right, we can expect to see more businesses follow these examples in the coming months and years.