A few weeks ago I attended Mumbrella360, Australia’s biggest media and marketing event. And while sessions covered everything from influencer marketing to crisis communications and the future of AI, a recurring theme seemed to prevail throughout them all — trust.
PwC partner Megan Brownlow summed it up well, claiming that trust issues had “blackened the industry”. Brownlow was referring to online advertising specifically, but it something that is impacting the entire marketing (including communications) industry. And frankly, can you blame us?
Every week there seems to be a new data breach or some kind of bad behaviour splashed across the media. But with each blow the relationship between brand and consumer becomes a game of jenga; every incident removing a block of ‘trust’ from our jenga pile, and well, we all know what happens when too many blocks are taken away.
Trust issues are a defining part of our culture today and it has meant that we as consumers are even more discerning of marketing. A recent report from HubSpot found that only 3% of consumers trust marketers. That was just behind car salespeople and politicians at 1%. When you couple this with the fact that we’re no longer brand loyal, we have a completely new playing field.
The rules have changed and the same tactics simply don’t work. For us as communication professionals it means rethinking campaigns and how we position brands in the public eye, with the key being simply authenticity.
Authenticity in an age of distrust
I’m sure we’ve all had that “what were they thinking” moment when scrolling through a social media feed or watching an ad that just didn’t seem right. The messaging was off, or the creative was strange. The whole thing just didn’t seem to make sense for that brand and what it is meant to stand for.
The reason for this obviously varies. Maybe it’s a result of an error in judgement, or perhaps it’s a bid to stand out from the pack in a content-saturated market. But I’d argue, a lot of the time it’s because of inauthenticity.
Defining your purpose
In a time when consumers do have trust issues, it’s more important than ever for brands to stay true to what they believe and why they exist. But this can only happen with a clearly defined company purpose — and if it’s purely revenue, you might be in trouble.
When thinking about your purpose, you need to be questioning the following:
- When you started your business, what did you set out to change?
- What are your company’s core values? What does your company care about the most? What’s non-negotiable?
- When it’s all done and dusted, what legacy do you want your brand to leave behind?
From there, it’s time to ask what company goals matter most to form the basis of your company purpose. Again, this needs to go beyond just revenue and should resonate with your initial questions.
Once you’ve clearly defined your purpose, it needs to be applied to everything you do, including all external communications. You should be questioning everything you do rings true to your purpose.
There are of course many factors that makes people trust a brand. And it doesn’t happen overnight. But going back to basics, remembering who you are as a company, and being authentic to this is what brands often forget. And it’s leading to trust issues. Next time you’re suggesting an activation, writing a pitch or drafting a social post, question how it fits into the overall purpose. We can’t risk giving people a reason to remove a block from their jenga pile.