The importance of Trust
One of the concerning issues within society over the last few months has been the number of surveys that have identified that Australians are generally more unhappy than a decade ago, and have lost trust in both their political leaders, institutions, and the media. As an advertising practitioner for most of my career, truth in advertising was the ideal that you strived for and to tell the story of your brand in a memorable and informative way. With the passing of the mass media era and the move to micro marketing through online, digital, and social media, something has been lost and become broken along the way.
The advertising industry has been part of the problem, but technology has given people more power to compare, to review products to become adjudicators on service and to in some ways spread specific views, opinions, and perceptions, some based on objective fact, but often on their view of the world. Activism is alive and well and many brands are now more concerned with aligning with causes than with promoting the benefits of their brand. Brands are very sensitive to being in alignment with the views of their customers and have in some cases abandoned narratives around performance to jump on issues such as climate change, equality and first people. ‘Wokeism’ is the message with companies and individuals signing up to be more aware of community attitudes on gender, race, and the like. The identification with these attitudes, whilst sound, is creating an atmosphere where many Australians think institutions and the noisy minority are looking to monopolize our culture and society creating anger and divisiveness.
Against this background what do advertisers do? Do they join the chorus on these issues, or do they forge a new path? The public at large has an in-built meter for BS, so brands need to be careful of woke-washing by advertising their good deeds but not changing their behaviour. A recent US study by impact.com identified ‘The Trust Imperative’ which was developed by the Forrester group identified seven levers that impact trust. Using academic research and new quantitative and qualitative data they identified –
Brands need to earn trust. This can be done through the help and support you give your customers, developing content that is geared to telling the stories of your brand, developing sound partnerships with influencers and organisations with whom you share a common purpose. Curating strategic social media content and working with not-for- profit organisations to improve society in some small way, where your employees and stakeholders can align together.
The issue of trust should be a more mainstream issue for all advertisers, particularly in these times of uncertainty and change. Cultural issues have a place, but we need to be careful there is a balance and to decide whether it’s a brand’s role to get involved in a debate, when many in the community are not necessarily totally onboard with the narrative.
I know some will argue that it’s our role to change the views of people on these subjects, but in many cases our role is to focus on the brand at hand and its story. We should not digress from the main game whatever our individual opinions might be on a cultural issue.