Trust Matters

19 Oct 2015|Paul Cowper

Some things in life have a value all of their own and that can’t really be measured. One such thing is trust. Trust is essential to good relationships between people and as such forms a vital cornerstone of any community or society. We all have to trust one another to do certain things and not to do other things, that’s how the world goes around.
And of course brands aspire to and need to be trusted, yet so often we see them in a position where they need to “re-build trust” – clearly a difficult position to be in because the implication is that you had trust, but you blew it, and now you’re trying to make amends. Come back to me darling, I’ve changed!

But do we ever really place our trust in brands, and if so in what ways? The fact is that, for a business, trust is layered, it requires that we believe brand promise will be delivered, but also that the business behind it will operate in a way we don’t disapprove of. In the case of corporate brands this is all blurred together in their reputation. Such brands not only have to perform well, they also have to be good.

So the pressure becomes doubled – a business can lose our trust by failing to operate in a way we would hope (tax avoidance, unfair / unsafe / unethical working practices – all sadly familiar crimes) and the whole sector can be drawn into disrepute, banking has clearly suffered this over the last 10 years. In these instances the brand is damaged, but it’s probably not the cause of the failure. It is however the mechanism through which people can de-select and thereby “punish” a business or sector they disapprove of.

In developing markets like China people are still very focussed on getting good quality safe products, so performance quality is a big deal. In developed markets performance is much more expected and increasingly people’s expectations are that brands must both deliver well and be good in order to earn and retain what passes for trust. In part this is a symptom of the economic situation we’ve lived through in the West, but there seems to be little evidence to suggest that our pre-recessionary purchasing behaviours will return – we’ve permanently shifted from “me me me” to “me me us.”

Trust matters, not least because the absence of trust is so damaging for a brand, but beyond that it sets a standard for the way you operate. As a brand you have to be trusted for a specific reason – I might trust Ronseal to keep my fence standing up but I wouldn’t trust them to make my dinner.

So here are the things you need to do to generate and to retain trust:
1. Know yourself and be yourself – what should they trust you for? – be specific and define this from your audience’s point of view, not your own.
2. Be consistent – deliver your promise every time and in every way.
3. Take pride and pleasure in great fulfilment – create a culture in the team / business which celebrates great fulfilment – don’t assume that being available is the end, true fulfilment is inherently complex.
4. Work from the inside out, make it personal and get busy, active and present in people’s lives – trust is a feeling, not a data point, you have to earn it and you have to work to keep it.


Written by Paul Cowper, Managing Director, Added Value UK

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