Trust – it’s a perennial topic that should not need constant highlighting but it is a timely topic for several reasons right now because it is one of the vital differentiators for brands in an economically depressed and fiercely competitive landscape. Customers don’t necessarily follow the lowest price in times of hard choices but return to trusted brands that have proved their worth over time and never ‘betrayed’ them.
Trust seems to be evaporating rapidly from brands and the face of brands, however, whether due to outright betrayals or pleading the letter of the law rather than thinking of how actions play to the holders of shrinking household purse-strings.
Ask Locog and the contracted company for its Olympic mascots, currently investigating claims of poor pay and conditions at its Chinese supplier, about the importance of trust. Or Carnival Cruises, now trying to address the terrible tragedy of the capsized cruise ship. Or the Tesco chief operating officer who sold shares ahead of the poor trading update. Or even beleaguered Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, accused of taking bungs while at Portsmouth.
“If you position yourself as a ‘trusted brand’ then you beetter be damn sure you can support the claim all the way back up your supply chain”
The corporate world itself no longer commands trust. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer of 25 countries shows trust in business falling from 56% to 53%, with no great surprise that banking and financial services are the two least trusted sectors. There’s only grim reassurance in the fact ‘government’ suffered the steepest decline of all.
Being trusted allows you to try new things. Your customers will give you leeway to expand into new areas or migrate to a new business model – for instance, see this week’s cover feature in which Christa Carone, CMO of Xerox, explains how the iconic photocopier company is changing. Customers can even forgive you a mis-step if you put your hands up quick enough and find reverse gear, as countless food and drink reformulation case studies show.
But if you position yourself as a ‘trusted brand’ then you better be damn sure you can support the claim all the way back up your supply chain, keeping a keen eye out for environmental and human rights abuse and on workforce morale. Edelman’s report also highlights that businesses looking to build trust need to be “societally focused” and the public want to see companies treating employees well, listening to customers and having ethical business practices.
It is costly and demanding on resources to continually audit suppliers and invest in workforce goodwill. But ultimately it’s cheaper to spend on retaining public trust than fighting to regain it once lost.
Branwell Johnson, associate editor