Trust: How to Rebuild Brand Authenticity

trust

Trust.

It seems the days are gone when we trust easily. From individuals to organizations, our trust seems to be declining with each passing year.

And yet organizations build their brands on trust.

In his newly released book, The Post-Truth Business:  How to Rebuild Brand Authenticity in a Distrusting World, researcher and strategist Sean Pillot de Chenecey shares what brands need to do to have authentic, long-lasting relationships with their consumers in an age of fake news, privacy issues, and the search for truth.

 

The Number One Issue Facing Brands

Your view on the importance of trust is clear from the very first page where you say, “Trust is the number one issue facing brands on a global basis.” What leads you to this conclusion? How is this different than years ago? 

Around the world, brand foundations are being shaken. It’s apparent that many brand-consumer relationships are on rocky ground, and something fundamental needs to change.

According to The Economist, “Consumer trust is the basis of all brand values, and therefore brands have an immense incentive to retain it.” And as that immensely powerful business-figurehead Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba, stated so succinctly, “Once you have trust, the rest is easy.” However, these statements are set against a harsh reality illuminated by a much-cited industry report from the Havas agency, which noted that, “Much of the trust, respect and loyalty people had for many brands has disintegrated. You see it in the level of cynicism, skepticism and indifference that people have towards them.”

Company strategists are finally realizing that consumers are increasingly judging brands by how they actually behave, as opposed to simply believing the stories they tell. Thus, their brand credibility needs to be based on fact, not fiction. Businesses want to have strong and long-lasting relationships with their consumers. That brand-consumer relationship is built on trust, but in a post-truth world, brands are faced with a serious challenge: so much of modern life is defined by mistrust. So, for brands today, trust and truth are the most important games in town.

 

“Once you have trust, the rest is easy.” -Jack Ma

 

How to Build Trust

Share a few of the principles organizations should use to build trust.

To act as a reference guide for the leaders of ‘good businesses,’ I’ve collated the key learnings into a ‘Post-Truth Brand Manifesto.’ Here is a very brief summary of it…

Be authentic.

Truly authentic companies that want to earn and keep our trust have to ‘live it like they say it’ and dovetail brand intentions with the consumer reality. Because from a customer point of view, behavior is what builds brand credibility and corporate integrity, not merely the advertising stories that a brand may choose to tell.

5 Ways to Transform the Rules of Brand Legacy Building

brand legacy

Build A Brand Legacy

 

How do you build and maintain a brand legacy?

What do leaders often get wrong in building a brand?

Mark Miller and Lucas Conley are the authors of Legacy in the Making: Building a Long-Term Brand to Stand Out in a Short-Term World. Miller is the founder of The Legacy Lab, a research and consulting practice, and the chief strategy officer at Team One. Conley is the executive editor of The Legacy Lab and a former researcher for The Atlantic and staff writer for Fast Company.

 

“The best short-term strategy is a long-term one.” -Miller and Conley

 

5 Brand Building Errors

What do most leaders get wrong when they’re thinking about legacy?

We’ve learned a lot about how leaders build and maintain brand legacies since Mark founded The Legacy Lab in 2012. Over the years, we’ve identified five things traditional business leaders tend to do wrong today:

1) Think institutionally: Traditional brand leaders buy in to management systems and institutional processes with the goal of keeping up with market trends.

2) Lean into attitude over action: Traditional brand leaders imagine their brands first from the outside in, believing that what they say and how they posture matters more than what they do.

3) Practice command and control: Traditional brand leaders hoard information and tell customers what to do, striving for category dominance and sales superiority.

4) Follow category orthodoxy: Traditional brand leaders focus on mastering rules (e.g., “business is about making profits”) and take conventional wisdom for granted (e.g., “there are no profits in altruism”), all in the interest of maintaining the status quo.

5) Evolve episodically: Traditional brand leaders tend to grow stale by repeating the past (rarely innovating) or lose their identity by renouncing it (innovating everything at once). Both are examples of episodic evolution.

Once these were the accepted rules of brand-building. In the modern era these methods now amount to short-term thinking. And while short-term thinking may sound appropriate for our short-term world, we learned that it’s actually the long-term thinkers who make faster, sharper decisions. This is because, no matter the market trends, long-term thinkers know where they’re going. This counterintuitive insight—that the best short-term strategy is a long-term one—is at the heart of our book.

 

“Modern legacy brands are not museums.” -Miller and Conley

 

Your book highlights various leading organizations. How did you go about choosing them?

How to Fuel Purpose and Profit by Doing Good

do good

More than Profit

Customers are increasingly expecting more from brands. Many consumers expect far more from companies than for them to increase profits. They expect organizations to “do good” in society.

A former executive director of strategy and planning and head of consulting at Interbrand, Anne Bahr Thompson, founded Onesixtyfourth, a strategic and creative consultancy, to help leaders integrate social responsibility into their brands, business strategy, and corporate culture. Her passion for challenging organizations to a more collaborative way of thinking grabbed my attention. And her new book, Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit, is not only a call to action but a blueprint to help leaders move from a Me-to-We mentality of service.

I recently spoke with Anne about her work. 

 

“When a brand clearly communicates what it delivers, it provides customers with a benchmark from which to measure all their interactions with that brand.” -Anne Bahr Thompson

 

What explains this incredible shift from a profits-only focus to one where we expect brands to “Do Good”?

There are a number of things underlying this shift. Overall, profound changes in technology, politics, the global economy, and the rise of social media have reshaped the landscape for business. The wired, digital world in which brands now operate has impacted the traditional pact between companies and their customers, employees, and stakeholders. As people’s expectations for their relationships with brands have shifted, businesses are finding that their success is tied to their ability to demonstrate that they are committed to doing good, helping to solve people’s bigger social and environmental concerns.

More specifically, five factors have been at play:

  1. On the most basic level, greater consciousness of people across the globe and social media demand that we pay attention to inequities we’ve previously been able to ignore. And, most people now acknowledge the planet does not have unlimited resources.
  2. Further, technology has reshaped our cultural narrative. The ability to cut and paste things together has trained us that we no longer need to choose between opposites. What follows is that the notions of making a profit while simultaneously doing good no longer seem at odds with one another.
  3. As many people have discussed, the power of social media and the impact of stories and images going viral have forced businesses to lis­ten and respond in ways that are unprecedented for many of them.
  4. People are frustrated with partisan politics. Beginning in 2011, participants in my research were saying that business was better suited than government to step in and fix big problems.
  5. The economic downturn in 2008 accelerated a nascent trend that began with the digital revolution at the turn of the millennium, which emphasized a shift from shareholder to stakeholder value. Since then, big name investors such as Larry Fink of BlackRock and Jamie Dimon of JPMC have visibly promoted a shift in orientation from short-term returns to long-termism. Add in the rise of various movements beginning with Occupy Wall Street and extending to #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and #GunControlNow, and it’s hard to ignore that the call for more equity and fairness in business decision making has grown stronger.

 

What is “Brand Citizenship”?

Brand Citizenship is an ethos that aligns purpose and profit. It’s a five-step model that emerged from the grassroots up, over three years of qualitative and quantitative research, deconstructing brand leadership from good corporate citizenship and favorite brands, which is a proxy for brand loyalty. Beginning with a meaningful purpose, Brand Citizenship simultaneously delivers benefits to individual customers and employees and betters the world. The five steps of the model – trust, enrichment, responsibility, community, and contribution – span across something I’ve labelled the ME-to-WE continuum. My research demonstrated that people look to the brands they buy and businesses they support to help solve their personal ME problems as well as their wider WE concerns about the environment, the economy and social issues.

 

5 Steps of Brand Citizenship

How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success

job switcher

Make a Career Change

If you’ve been itching to make a change, but don’t know where to start, or feel like you’re stuck in a career path that no longer makes sense, you’re reading the right article at the right time.

Dawn Graham, PhD is a Wharton Lecturer and EMBA Career Director, coach, author, Forbes Contributor, and Sirius XM Radio Host. Her new book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success, is a resource for anyone looking to change career directions in a purposeful way.

 

Switchers Fact: Most Americans spend around five years engaged in some type of job activity.

 

You have a unique vantage point both due to your leading SiriusXM Radio show and your role as Director of Career Management for the Executive MBA Program at Wharton. What trends are you seeing across professional job searchers today?

People want a job that inspires them! Compensation will always be important. However, professionals are willing to make some sacrifices to find work that is meaningful or flexible, or that puts them on the path to a career that is more satisfying.  Many mid-career professionals landed in a job after college and climbed the ladder, only to realize that the path they chose isn’t fulfilling. Others have discovered careers that may not have existed a decade ago and still others have experienced life changes, such as having a family, which have led them to seek something more flexible.

 

“Lifetime regrets are more painful than delayed gratification.” -Dawn Graham

 

What is the “new normal” in America for most people in terms of changing jobs?

The great news for career switchers is that the market is becoming more accepting of trying new paths. The rise of the gig economy, portfolio careers, and entrepreneurial pursuits have opened the door to non-traditional career paths. The average tenure in a company is about 4.2 years, so long gone are the days of the 30-year retirement gift. In fact, while yearly job hopping is still frowned upon by employers, so is staying at a company for too long, especially if you’ve not shown significant progression or diversity in your assignments. After 10 years, hiring managers in new companies start to wonder if you’re adaptable enough to function effectively in a different culture, so it’s more important than ever today to pay attention to taking charge of your career.

 

Research: up to 80 percent of employee turnover is due to poor hiring.

 

How difficult is it to change careers today?

How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage

purpose

How Leaders Create Engagement

A decent product at a fair price with good customer service may once have been enough. No longer. The bar has moved. Employees and customers want organizations to do some social good along the way.

My friend and bestselling author John Izzo is out with a new book, co-authored by Jeff Vanderwielen: The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good. The book is full of examples and ideas to help you move your organization to one that is infused with purpose.

I recently asked John to share more about his research and work in this area.

 

“Winning in the purpose revolution requires authenticity.” -John Izzo

 

4 Forces Driving Change

You say that there is a revolution happening right now and ignoring it will send your company to irrelevance. What is it and what forces are driving it?

The revolution is a desire among employees, customers and investors to leverage social good with their choices. This is a revolution of AND not OR. Employees want everything they have always wanted, but they also want a job that gives them a sense of purpose in a company they feel is doing good in the world. Customers want products that excite them at a good price, but they also want to leverage good with those choices—and certainly buy things that cause no harm. Investors was a return on money, but the fastest growing funds are those that also promise social impact.

In an age of commoditization, the marketplace is filled with many similar products, and purpose is a way for companies to create brand differentiation based on values, not just product.

What’s driving the revolution are four primary trends. The Millennials are now a global force with a strong set of values around creating social good and having meaning in their work. The boomers are moving into the “legacy” stage of life where the impact they leave starts to compete with ego. The rising middle class in the developing world is another major driver, as people rise out of poverty, they are able to think about the social good in their choices. Finally, business is both blamed for some of the world’s biggest challenges but also increasingly seen as the key to addressing those same issues through corporate social responsibility.

 

“Purpose is a way for companies to create brand differentiation based on values, not just product.” -John Izzo

 

Connect Purpose to Contribution

How do leaders help employees connect purpose to work contribution?

The first step is to have a clearly articulated compelling purpose that is authentic. Starbucks’ purpose is to “inspire the human spirit one cup of coffee at a time” while 3M’s is to “advance every life and improve every business while using science to solve the world’s greatest challenges” (like sustainability).

The second step is to drive job purpose more than job function. Focus on the real impact jobs and teams make. Have every person identify the purpose of their job and the same for every team. Consistently tell stories of how your company makes a real difference. Bring in customers to tell their stories, and create space for employees to do the same. One large bank we worked with started having a standing agenda item in every branch: “How did we make a difference for a client since last time we met?” In the branches that did it, engagement went up 23% and sales went up 18%!

 

Move Purpose to Center Stage