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We live in a glass society where it is very difficult for companies and institutions to hide their truth over time. Let’s remember the recent Carlos Goshn and Nissan scandals; Facebook and its data sales; palm oil and Nestlé; pig farms and El Pozo; the Juan Carlos I University and its master’s degrees…

Society demands transparency and honesty from everything that represents them; brands do not escape this situation since citizens connect with those with which we feel identified. As today we value what they do more than what they say, beyond official communications we care about what happens inside, how they treat their employees, where the products they offer us come from or how they manufacture them, what impact all this has on the environment.

I have had the opportunity to read the book “Black Brands -in the Era of Transparency” by Dr. Fernando Olivares, professor of Communication and Corporate Branding at the University of Alicante (Spain), co-authored with other authors. It is a more than interesting study on what is seen and not seen behind many brands, from different sectors, from which they coined the concept of black markings to define those that build an opaque veil of information towards the consumer and society, in terms of the identity of the real manufacturer who makes the product.

Olivares cites that “many brands are responsible, and even transparent, and yet they have no qualms about lacking the truth and productive sincerity.” Reality means that consumers continue to buy those brands in which they have placed their previous trust, but they are often unaware of what is behind them until the scandal arrives, such as those mentioned at the beginning, and sooner or later it ends up coming.

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Much has been written about private labels. From the beginning, they were born with the price variable integrated into their DNA and this aspect seems to have allowed them to be non-transparent. But society is changing, today it values other variables and in this category new win-win formulas appear, such as manufacturer brands that are sold in collaboration with the distributor. Thus, new co-branding

models emerge that give rise to new denominations such as “prescriber’s brand” to separate those brands that market a product manufactured by others and communicate it transparently. The book “Black Brands” cites precisely the case of Mercadona, which from the beginning was committed to communicating to its customers which manufacturers are behind its brands Hacendado, Bosque Verde, Deliplus and Compy. In this segment and at the other extreme would be Carrefour in Spain, which always opted for the non-identification of manufacturers; In any case, it may be a legitimate strategy, but it would seem that it does not obey what society is demanding today.

The comprehensive report directed by Dr. Olivares does not stop at the food sector, it also reviews what is happening in the fashion, automotive, mobile telephony sector, as well as providing interesting reflections on the role of transparency, legal formulas, consumer rights… Of course, very revealing.

It is well known that citizens choose those brands that inspire them with confidence and, as the report shows, Reality Index According to Branward, the effect of the gap between what brands say and consumers perceive is directly undermining the trust of the latter and the reputation of the former.

There is no other way than transparency and brands will be forced to follow it, without the possibility of ignoring it, since what they do not tell will be told by others, thanks to new technologies and access to all kinds of information.

The classic models of Brand Management do not pay enough attention to the global management of intangible resources – brand, culture, behaviors, reputation – which must be approached under a vision aimed at all their audiences, allowing all the target audiences to be aligned in the same direction. Let’s think that 80% of citizens would not buy products or services from a brand with a bad reputation, and opacity does not exactly contribute to building a good reputation. In the face of a crisis, reversing the situation is complicated and expensive, very expensive; and recovering the initial situation is not always achievable.

As if that were not enough, in the coming years we will see how Artificial Intelligence assistants (Alexa, Siri, Cortana, etc.) will make many of the purchasing decisions for us. Artificial intelligence will soon be able to investigate these companies by analyzing all aspects of their production and management processes, an aspect that will lead to a new paradigm of transparency to which organizations will not be able to turn their backs.

Finally, let’s not forget the essential premise that brands are relationships and all relationships are built on trust.



Carlos Puig Falcó

CEO of Branward®



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