Marketers have been advised that consumer trust is not a commodity that can be chased.
According to James Denton-Clark, Managing Director of Karmarama, brands have been “obsessed” by the question of whether winning consumers’ trust is the biggest challenge they face for many years.
Indeed, he said everyone from energy companies and clothes brands to banks and political parties have long been preoccupied by this issue. However, Mr Denton-Clark insisted that if any organisation or business is worried about not being trusted, then they should consider their actions and how they operate.
This, he stated, is because there will probably a good reason why they are feeling concerned in the first place.
“By definition, it’s letting people down and not delivering what it promises,” he commented.
Mr Denton-Clark stressed that trust is something that cannot be chased. Instead, he argued that it should be a “gloriously resulting benefit of consistently meeting a person’s needs”. Brands were advised that this depends on them having a deep understanding of why they are relevant in their customers’ lives and the purpose that they serve.
However, Mr Denton-Clark noted that there can still be a danger that long-established brands will get complacent, as some might assume they “still hold that cherished position because they always have”.
Harry Sheward, Managing Partner at Fold7, agreed that the importance of trust in marketing is not a particularly new issue among organisations and businesses. Nevertheless, he said it has become more pronounced in the last few years, as brands in some industries have given consumers “reasons to not trust them”.
For instance, he noted that the reputation of Westminster politicians has taken a battering in recent years, along with many financial services providers. Mr Sheward said this has led to organisations that boast “increased transparency” rising in prominence and winning hearts and minds at the same time.
“Brands know they can no longer tell consumers what to do,” Mr Sheward observed.
Giles Hedger, Chief Strategy Officer at advertising agency Leo Burnett, added that “transparency of motive” is the biggest challenge facing marketers in the 21st century.
“The lapses that dent a brand’s reputation or trigger a political rush to authenticity are not lapses in behaviour, but lapses in consciousness,” he said. “People forget how far the consumer contract has evolved; that consumers demand to understand not just the value exchange but what motivates it.”
Mr Hedger pointed out that acquiring customer data is a key motivation for brands, but suggested that since this opens up concerns about privacy, it can be “toxic to the very notion of trust”. As a result, he believes brand owners must “de-stealth” this aspect of their relationship as a matter of urgency.
Posted by Robin McCrink