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Friday, 03/02/17

Public trust is in crisis

Government, business and media have all lost the confidence of the UK population in a dramatic fall in the last year. There is an unprecedented feeling in the UK that life is not as fair as it used to be. Only one in nine of the UK population think that the system still works.

The annual Edelman Trust Survey calls this a crisis. Trust in media sources has fallen spectacularly. This held up for a long time because people trusted the medium that they were closest to. So if you were a Sun reader you trusted that paper, but thought that the Guardian was biased and vice versa. Now less than a quarter of Brits say they trust the media in any respect.

In every challenge there is opportunity. The most trusted UK institution is now business - limping in at just 33%. Sitting in the Edelman analysis are clear guidelines for how businesses and brands could conduct themselves in order to win in the trust stakes.

Don't talk down to your customers. In "Tell the truth, honesty is your most powerful marketing tool", published in 2012, I predicted the death of spin: "in five years we will look back at the art of spin as an anachronism". Well my timeline was wrong, but where meaningless spin isn't dead, it should now be finished off for good.

Edelman shows that the most credible spokespeople for businesses are independent experts or people like yourself.

Faced with a choice people pick spontaneity over rehearsed polished speeches, bluntness over politeness and personal stories over data. Trust in advertising is no stronger than trust in social media. Given that consumer cynicism is at its height now, every consumer interaction is loaded with meaning.

Any service brand needs to consider the whole customer experience. Marketing can make the brand more memorable in a really good way. A failure to deliver can make it more memorable than that in a very bad way.

One of the most powerful mechanisms to drive trust is congruence. People love congruence. Many powerful stories work on the basis that eventually the truth will out, that covering up deep motivations ends badly, from Macbeth to Gilderoy Lockheart in Harry Potter. The winners of reality TV shows are normally those who arrive as the most congruent - their appearance matches their behaviour. The first impressions are also the last impressions. They don't have to be particularly likeable. We like that they are not fake.

So marketing, advertising and media experts have a clear path to follow in 2017. The best route for the brands under their influence is congruence. The media execution needs to be congruent with the advertising. Any brand promising warmth and friendliness in its values must surely deliver this in friendly media channels - the need for a social strategy is paramount. Brand advocacy will drive congruence too - consumers don't just want to take the advertising at face value they will need recommendations online and offline (ie down the pub or at the school gate etc). Local behaviour needs to be aligned with national or global brand behaviour. All the employees need to be brand ambassadors. Which means that how you look after them is as important as the production values of the advertising. Walking the walk as well as talking the talk is more crucial in 2017 than ever.

By Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer

 


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