January is a time for making commitments, ringing changes, starting afresh. Every year, I make resolutions like ‘eat less and exercise more’, ‘learn to meditate’, ‘bake sourdough bread that is edible’. I rarely manage to fulfil these. I am more successful when it comes to professional resolutions and think we should all think about how our organisations can make some positive changes.
First, resolve to clean up your act. Now is the time to ask yourself a whole host of questions, some really obvious – routine, even – others less so. Have you got the skills in your team or organisation to take you through the year? Will training fill the gaps? Will you need to boost your in-house capability or will you need additional or different agency support?
Now is the time to look at your suppliers. Do your rosters need refreshing? When are contracts up? Is everything going as well as you want? What are servicing levels like? Is your team using your agencies effectively? Should you have a free and frank conversation with the account lead?
Have you asked your suppliers about their diversity policies? How many are signed up to the #timeTo initiative? Is there more they could be doing to reflect your values?
Next, you should build trust. Trust is becoming increasingly important in brands’ relationships with their consumers – I think it will be the primary factor before long. Whether you are a value brand or a luxury one, your consumers need to trust you to provide good value and be available when they expect you to be. No one wants to feel they are being ripped off and consumers’ tolerance of online services being down is incredibly low.
They expect you to be honest and authentic. It should go without saying but alas all too often we see brands purporting to stand for X or Y but the slightest probing reveals such claims as meaningless. Some of you will recall the fashion retailer whose customers are predominantly young women (and their mums and aunts – I speak with some experience) which loves to position itself as the very embodiment of girl power and yet cancelled a partnership with a publisher to promote a feminist book. In my house at least, that brand is no longer top of our shops.
And most crucially, consumers need to trust you with their data. In a post-GDPR world, there is heightened alertness to misselling of data, unsolicited and unwelcome marketing, and data theft. Again, tolerance levels for this are, rightly, low. And when things go wrong, consumers need to trust you will respond swiftly and openly. They expect to be informed as soon as possible, to be reassured that you have taken the right steps to protect them and that you will, where appropriate, compensate them.
Finally, try to build hope. However – and indeed whenever – the Brexit process concludes, the one thing we can be sure of is that our country will remain deeply divided and it is only likely to persist.
I personally think there is a real opportunity for brands to help heal the terrible rifts in our society. With levels of public trust in politicians and the media low (19% and 26% respectively according to Ipsos Mori’s Veracity Index) there is a space for organisations to bring communities together.
I know I am a bit of a Pollyanna and I appreciate how tough an ask this is (the same index reveals ad executives as the least trusted profession with a miserable 16%) but I strongly believe that organisations with good values can play a valuable role in resolving some of the discord. How? By demonstrating that we have more in common, that we share so many values, that we care about our families, our friends, our neighbours.
Some of the Christmas campaigns from brands like Tesco and Nationwide (I can take no credit for it) did just this. There is also an opportunity for brands to take a stand on issues which we care about, whether it is education, health or housing. I think brands that can contribute to our knowledge or use their resources to develop solutions can help heal.
What we all need more than anything else in 2019 is hope. The brands that can give us that will win our hearts, minds and custom.
Tanya Joseph is director of external relations at Nationwide