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.

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 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

Build an Unstoppable Organization

Wrecking Ball

Become Unstoppable

 

How can you continually improve your employees’ morale and performance?

How can you stay ahead of your customers’ ever-changing needs?

How will you survive financially amidst rising costs?

 

A version of these questions was on the back cover of The Unstoppable Organization and drew my eye and pulled me in. The book’s author, Shawn Casemore, is an authority in employee and customer empowerment. His consulting practice is focused on helping leaders build organizations stronger through their people.

After reading the book, I talked with Shawn about his work and the book.

 

Unstoppable Characteristics

What are the characteristics of the “unstoppable organization”?

An Unstoppable Organization is one in which the CEO and leaders from across the organization perceive themselves as facilitators of their employees needs, suggestions and ideas. Their priority is to remove the barriers and obstacles that stand in the way of their employees getting their job done. In turn the leaders of Unstoppable Organizations recognize that by creating an environment in which their employees can thrive results in an environment in which customers are satisfied.

 

“An unstoppable organization is one that puts its people first, placing them at the forefront of creating a brand promise.” -Shawn Casemore

 

Customerize Your Future

What is “customerizing” and why must companies do it?

An unstoppable organization is one that puts its people first, placing them at the forefront of creating a brand promise that will satisfy the evolution of customer demands. When people aren’t placed first, the brand promise ultimately will fail. Domino’s was only able to meet it’s brand promise of “30 minutes or it’s free” by having it’s entire team in each store be dedicated to creating a consistent product that was delivered on-time every-time. Your customers want customization, and it’s through your employees that you can actually define and meet this growing need. With the right product knowledge and a clear understanding of the customer, employees are well equipped to provide the ideas and support necessary to satisfy your brand promise.

 

“Businesses often forget about the culture and ultimately they suffer for it, because they cannot deliver good service from unhappy employees.” -Tony Hsieh

 

How do leaders best build an organizational culture that adds value to customers? 

Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition

dna

Branding that Gets to Aha!

Andy Cunningham played a key role in the launch of the original Macintosh. Which I think qualifies her to say, “Hey, I’m kind of a big deal!” I mean, Steve Jobs level big deal.

But she doesn’t say that at all. Instead, she helps other organizations with branding, positioning and marketing.

She’s just released a book, Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition. It’s a framework to help you understand and position your company. I found it intriguing and asked her to share some of her experience with you.

 

“Perceptions today are grounded in and sustained by authenticity.” -Andy Cunningham

 

Branding Gone Wrong

You recently surveyed 100 North American CEOs, and fewer than 1/3 felt that the brand strategy they had commissioned had been effective. Why do we so often get it wrong?

Branding campaigns fail or fall flat for several reasons: resistance to change, uncertainty around how to implement the strategy, too many competing ideas—maybe even business strategy that has moved beyond a recently completed brand initiative.

But there’s another big reason: branding is too much fun. (Yes, really!) Branding is the part of a marketing campaign that gets a lot of attention—the eye candy that the senior leadership is quick to notice. Why? Because it speaks to the emotional side of a product or service and is a great distraction from the day-to-day, boring details behind that product or service. But when you launch straight into branding before parsing those “boring” details—before you understand the exact space in the marketing landscape your company is uniquely qualified to fill—you’re putting the cart before the horse. A sexy or fun brand package is great to look at, but if it doesn’t capture a company’s role and relevance in the market (its position), then it’s little more than a pretty face without any substance to back it up. That’s where my DNA-based methodology comes in. It offers an actionable framework for using your company’s genetic makeup to determine competitive advantage.

 

 

The 2 Most Important Questions