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Trust: The Brand Opportunity Of Our Times


Trust: The Brand Opportunity Of Our Times

Trust continues to be among the most important issues of our time: Trust in government, trust in the media and trust in brands. A report I look forward to reading every year is Edeleman’s Trust Barometer, which turns 20 this year. The results come from 34,000 respondents in 28 distinct markets, which give it a unique and credible global perspective.

As you might expect, the world is having trouble with trust, and it has been in decline for quite some time. But this year, there’s an odd paradox: Despite a strong-ish global economy and near full employment, none of the four societal institutions that the study measures—government, business, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and media—is trusted. The cause is attributed to people’s fears about the future and the role they will play in that future. To fix this, the report concludes that institutions need to embrace a new way of effectively building trust: balancing competence with ethical behavior.

Of the four institutions measured, only business was perceived as having a positive score for competence which is great news for brands – there’s a foundation on which to build. And we’re seeing plenty of opportunity for brands the prioritize ethics, which the study shows are 3x more impactful to building a brand’s trust than competence. Here’s some ways to go about it:

  • Think Stakeholders, Not Shareholders. Yes, shareholders are important. But recognize that customers, employees, suppliers and communities are impacted by the actions a brand takes. Long-term success is achieved by adopting strategies that improve profits while positively impacting the communities where the brand operates.
  • CEOs Have To Lead. And leading means addressing topics which are at the core of the fears which stand in the way of being trusted. The majority of those fears are deeply personal: Training for jobs of the future and worrying about being displaced by automation. We previously wrote on how AT&T has rolled out an extensive program to modernize their workforce (those willing to change). More brands need to adopt this approach. But stakeholders are also looking to CEOs for other pressing issues of the day like climate change, immigration, income inequality and diversity/inclusion. In these polarized times, CEOs will have to balance taking principled positions on issues without seeming to “take a side”.
  • Employees Need To Be Heard. More employees want to have a seat at the table when it comes to having the opportunity to shape the future of society. Providing a forum when you only have one office is easy, but when a brand operates in multiple communities, some kind of local organizing is essential to ensure that a global goals are brought to life with local relevance.
  • Brand Democracy. We’ve talked many times about how customers want brands to “do more.” Belief-driven buyers expect the brand to represent them and care about the issues they care about. For these buyers, governments are not providing an effective way to achieve the change they seek, and media are not providing accurate information. Business Roundtable brought together leading CEOs to help redefine what the modern corporation is. Greta Thunberg has been nominated for a Nobel Prize. There’s no shortage of opportunities to take the kind of action customers want to see.
  • Embrace Partnership. If you like history, and have read books like The Fourth Turning, you know we are at the end of an era. Even if you don’t like history, you can probably feel it in the culture. The system is not working for most of the people out there, which means a new system is on the horizon. There’s tremendous potential for brand to partner with governments, media and NGOs to show courageous leadership and a willingness to take action that affects real change. This is especially true for training/upskilling and addressing a future where automation is a reality. But it can also extend to other issues like climate and immigration.

The Blake Project Can Help You Build A Trusted Brand: Please email us for more about our purpose, mission, vision and values and brand culture workshops.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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