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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Living In The Age Of A Distrusted Brand


Living In The Age Of A Distrusted Brand

Posted on July 31, 2004 and read 7,211 times

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We live in a society that lacks trust. We don’t trust the government, we don’t trust the media, and most of us don’t even trust that something as simple as the mail will be delivered to our door everyday. So why would we trust Advertising?

Everyday consumers are bombarded with millions of advertising images, all marketing to the deepest needs. Yet do they ever stop to think, about where all this information is coming from?

More and more, consumers are becoming aware of the products and brands they buy. According to a recent interest survey done by the Center for Ethical Orientation, society has already become over marketed, saturated with information, and very mistrusting of where and what is being sold to them.

To most of us this is nothing new. As industry professionals we are familiar in the trends of consumer behaviour and the rapid changes that have occurred because of the information age in which we live.

So why is this important? Recently I was able to attend a lecture given by John Della Costa, President of the Centre for Ethical Orientation at a seminar for the Advertising Standards of Canada. It was a very insightful exploration of this issue that would surprise even the savviest marketer.

Trust matters. It is as simple as that. And in an increasing time of suspicion in society we really need to question the reframing of advertising. Brands matter, and consumers are increasingly feeling disconnected from brands and the brand experience. The top brands in the world including Coca-Cola and Microsoft have all received decreased brand trust measures in consumer research surveys on the correlation between honesty and brands conducted in the U.S.

As Canadians this should be a warning sign, we need to worry about the values shift and the erosion of trust towards our brands and realize that we must step up to make a difference in the ways brands are being communicated.

The decline in brand trust is not the outcome of external situational scandals in the press on the war invasions, government politics, or even institutional corruption (as many may commonly think). It is the indignities that the mass corporate brands present to consumers everyday. Even as marketers we can relate to the common two hour hold on a 1-800 number, or the transfer to multiple departments to solve a seemingly simple issue.

We wonder why the consumer does not trust our brands, yet in most cases every thing other than the logo and the design of the personal and strategic value statement does not align. How are companies ensuring that the overall customer experience with the brand is positive?

Canadians as a whole are not living in a “low” trust society, as are some other nations across the globe, but we certainly are living in a “less” trust society. The consumer doubts first and gives acceptance second.

This is so important for the advertising industry and brand communicators to understand. We really need to rethink what we are communicating in every facet of communication, and discover why CRM is becoming an increasingly important resource for agencies and advertisers to use. The consumer needs to have a playback of issues and feel like they are being understood. It is part of our social make up to have validation of our complaints or treatment.

Brands need to begin to help eliminate the erosion of trust and include the measure of brand equity in every discipline of their communication they need to be efficient in their understanding of what integrity means to the consumer. As marketers, we need to understand the dynamics of the brand experience and then make them real, fulfilling the brand promise. The price we pay is the quality and the trust to the consumer that the brand lives up to the core of the set identity.

Consumers are longing for a genuine dialogue. And our job is to replenish this lost trust. We need to create new opportunities and look for ways beyond our current governance of the brand to measure our communication on new criteria. A code of ethics is not enough; best practices aren’t enough. We need to animate the codes and become more aggressive and active in ensuring everyone, from our employees to our customers, becomes part of an enhanced brand experience.

Trust is much more than an issue of what we communicate. It affects is our bottom line. If the customer does not trust we will do our job, and do it well, why should they give us their business? Trust is equity.


Jackie Staub
Brand Specialist
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