Considering Trust In Marketing

I recently attended a client’s conference in Boston, where the issue of trust came up again and again.

It sometimes seems as if we’re living in a post-trust age, when nothing and no one is beyond question or reproach. Granted, there are plenty of people and organizations that have been guilty of abusing our trust, and the damage can be serious.

It’s interesting how hard it is to build trust — and how easily it can be torn to shreds.

As marketers, we know that there are some rules we have to play by no matter what. Truth in advertising is one, along with delivering a purchased item.

But with so many elements at play in a fully integrated marketing campaign, it can be hard to weigh how each one might impact the trust a consumer puts in your brand.

To help think about this problem, here are four common causes for mistrust -- and what you can do to avoid them:

Falsehoods: This is a really big, and really basic, no-no. It should be obvious that lying is bad, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. People may push the envelope here, stretching things and promising almost anything. If you do it over and over, eventually you have a problem.

Pro Tip: Don’t lie! Ever. If someone asks you to lie, consider the costs before you act!

Fast and Loose: Playing by the rules matters, but unfortunately, some organizations write their own rules with so much opacity and so many loopholes that customers might get motion sickness if they actually try to follow along. Actions can happen that the rules allow, but which still damage consumer trust. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Pro Tip: Be transparent. Don’t hide things in the word salads of contracts/user agreements; ask permission rather than assume acceptance; and consider how your customers would feel if they find out you’ve employed some trickery!

Confusion: A lesser transgression, more of an oversight really. Confusion comes when contradictory messages or promises reach consumers. It may be that there’s nothing wrong with the messages, but if they don’t match, it can leave people scratching their heads — which, in turn, can cause them to question your brand’s integrity.

Pro Tip: Be careful and make sure that wherever your customers come across your brand, everything makes sense. Of course, if you have many customer types and personas, this applies to those things that target someone specifically.

Misalignment: This is also a tricky one. It’s when a brand acts in a way that’s not aligned with its customers. It’s kind of like finding out that a really good friend likes Nickelback or something! Somehow, you can never quite look at them the same way again.

Pro Tip: Listen to your customers. Don’t assume that your management team or your friends and colleagues are a good proxy for your buyers. And, frankly, stay away from sticky wickets altogether. Recent research from Morning Consult found that 60% of Americans wish businesses stayed out of politics and other hot-button issues.

Managing these factor is easier said than done (all except the no-lying thing — just never do that), but these basic rules can help create a deeper bond of trust with your customers.

At the most basic level, trust develops from empathy. if you are skilled enough to see your brand, claims and offers from a customer’s perspective — and make changes as needed — you’re well on your way.

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