The Secret Marketer: Too many scandals are tainting business

I heard some shocking statistics from the CBI as part of its “Great Business Debate” campaign last week.

It said only half of UK citizens believe that business makes a positive contribution to society; less than a third think that the majority of British businesses behave ethically and that two-thirds believe that industry scandals have had an adverse impact on confidence in business as a whole.

As brand custodians these are worrying signs but perhaps unsurprising – at a time when Tesco announces embarrassing accounting problems and Phones4U complains that it was forced into bankruptcy by the actions of overly powerful mobile phone networks.

We as marketers should take these facts very seriously. I regularly get asked about the alignment between “sales” and “marketing”, and one of my responses is to explain how it is the marketing team’s role to build the reputation in our brand, to establish credibility in our product or service, and to then start conversations with customers so the Sales Team is able to glide in and take the glory by closing the business.

A while ago, I saw some other statistics that the Post Office brand was more trusted than your local MP, local bank manager, and GP. Whilst you may say “and…?”, I would suggest that is some brand heritage and 25 years ago would have been an earth shattering claim – just look at the respect MPs used to command, how Captain Mainwaring in TV’s Dad’s Army was revered (at least in his day job!), and even Martin Clunes in Doc Martin was the centre of the village. But today we scoff at the latest scandal to hit Westminster and the NHS and don’t get me started on where our banks have gone wrong.

Without trust our job as marketers is so much harder. I do not know a lot about the CBI campaign, but any brand owner knows that we need customers to understand what our brand is all about, what it stands for and what their friends and family think when they know they are a customer of that brand. Brands are currency, brands are a cache, brands are aspirational – but brands are fragile, easily damaged, and in the wrong hands can be destroyed in seconds. We need customers to respect our brands, feel confident with those brands, and not feel embarrassed by them. If this is what the CBI campaign is all about then I for one back it and so should all marketers in this country.

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