Once, it was easy to build brand trust. You used mass media to establish profile and credibility, you became a “household name” and that was pretty much it. No longer of course. The splintering of channels, new levels of transparency and increasing expectations from customers have made just ‘being’ a trusted brand almost impossible. Trust is now far from a given.
In an age where brands are increasingly seen as shared, companies can easily be lulled into treating social media as polling booths for their strategy. That’s not a good idea. However, there are times when you should respond to what is being said. The secret is knowing what to respond to, when and how.
Marketers talk a lot about the increasing personalisation that consumers are looking for in their interactions with brands. At the same time though, we know consumers seek endorsement from others on the good brands to be associated with and those that should be avoided. Interesting dichotomy. If you’re a brand manager, where do you invest your energies – products (as the means of those interactions), experience (as the memory of those interactions) or reputation (as the underwriter of those interactions)?
When I ask people “Which brands do you hate, and why?”, the names and the reasons for disliking said brand come back thick and fast:
The aspiration drive that has dominated how marketers think and what they strive to achieve in building a brand’s mythology is increasingly being seen by consumers as unattainable and fake. Buyers are drawing a line under what they perceive to be airbrushed brands. And the push-back is manifest in everything from the acceptance of imperfect food to the increased use of plus-size models on fashion house runways.
Marketers are under enormous pressure to get cut-through. Thing is – where’s the cut off point? How do you decide whether the claims you’re making are justified and how do you know you have pushed the boat out too far? Putting aside the legal considerations (not my space), here are four simple ways to filter what you should and shouldn’t say:
Brand trust resides in different places in different markets. The location and nature of that trust should directly influence how you compete.
Your word is your brand. Or rather, if the words aren’t right and your consumers depend on them for vital information, your brand will quickly find itself in the crosshairs of regulators, activist groups and annoyed consumers. The recent case concerning the contents of herbal supplements is more than an argument over percentages; at its core lies a simple question that underpins consumer trust.
Brand and reputation are tightly linked but not synonyms. I raise this because I seem to be having more and more conversations where brand projects are being renamed as reputation projects to make them more “palatable” internally. That in itself says a lot about what senior management think brand is and why they believe it’s not what they need.
We’re all tempted to do it at some stage: to overstate the advantages; to push the benefits of what is on offer past the point of credibility; to state that what we are doing or offering is better than what others are offering, but with no substantiation for that belief.