Trust-based Marketing

Marketer’s talk about need­ing to gain the con­sumers trust and make all their engage­ments with the brand pos­i­tive, per­son­al, real-time and amaz­ing. We pon­tif­i­cate about it end­less­ly. I am a mar­keter and giv­en the amount of ener­gy we expend on words, I’m curi­ous about how we are doing in deed. I’m look­ing for estab­lished trends that tran­scend “snap­shot in time” kind of analy­ses because we all know the time­less Mark Twain (gen­er­al­ly attrib­uted to him but not real­ly true) quote on sta­tis­tics, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Edel­man TrustBarometer

This barom­e­ter is based on 15 years of data. Thus, its results tran­scend the snap­shot in time analy­ses that per­me­ate our indus­try. The range of data that trust is eval­u­at­ed over also elim­i­nates the abil­i­ty to skew the results.

The 2015 Edel­man Trust­Barom­e­ter deliv­ers some bad news on a glob­al basis. “There has been a glob­al decline in trust over the last year, and the num­ber of coun­tries with trust­ed insti­tu­tions has fall­en to an all-time low among the informed public.”

Trust in Europe fared no bet­ter where trust lev­els fell fur­thest of any region in 2014, with only NGOs main­tain­ing a sta­ble degree of trust. Trust in gov­ern­ment reached a his­toric low of 36 per­cent, trust in media declined in eight of the nine coun­tries sur­veyed and trust in busi­ness was eleven points below the glob­al fig­ure, with sev­en out of nine Euro­pean mar­kets report­ing low­er trust in busi­ness this year.

It appears as though our cus­tomer first mar­ket­ing rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. The decline in trust has been steady and con­sis­tent year over year. The aware­ness to do some­thing to bridge the trust gap is there, but typ­i­cal­ly, we treat the symp­toms by try­ing to ward off the impacts rather than tack­le the root cause of why our busi­ness­es unin­ten­tion­al­ly destroy trust by ignor­ing the customer. The push of CEO’s on CMO’s to deliv­er short-term rev­enue over a dis­ci­plined long-term cus­tomer-cen­tric strat­e­gy unin­ten­tion­al­ly destroys cus­tomer trust. Nev­er­the­less, share­hold­ers and the Board of Direc­tors demand it. So, whose expec­ta­tions do you meet first? We have cho­sen share­hold­ers and arguably for good rea­son. How­ev­er, trust is one of those things that fol­low a slow to rise, fast to fall hys­tere­sis curve. The best of long-term inten­tions can be quick­ly mit­i­gat­ed by seek­ing short-term results. We usu­al­ly jus­ti­fy the means by ratio­nal­iz­ing that what we’re doing is what the cus­tomer wants. I have the snap­shot in time data to prove it says the CMO to the CEO … refer back to Mark Twain.

How well do you Know Your Customer?

Here, we have out first look at ana­lyz­ing a root cause of our erod­ing foun­da­tion of cus­tomer trust. has been pro­duc­ing a report for ten years now that expos­es the dif­fer­ence between marketer’s per­cep­tions and what con­sumers real­ly think. Yeah, scary stuff. This Euro­pean study is filled with charts and sta­tis­tics to visu­al­ize their find­ings and I’ll let that to you to peruse at your leisure.

What is the gap between mar­keters and consumers?

“In the ten years the fast.MAP Mar­ket­ing-GAP Study has been track­ing, it has repeat­ed­ly shown that some mar­keters stub­born­ly cling to out­mod­ed indus­try the­o­ry rather than lis­ten­ing to and learn­ing from the con­sumers they claim to be sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ing.

But it’s not only the tra­di­tion­al­ists who are mis­read­ing the mar­ket­place. Some of the evan­ge­lists of the lat­est media — SMS, mobile mar­ket­ing, Twit­ter and social net­works – either don’t know or are ignor­ing the fact their enthu­si­asm is not shared by 9 in 10 con­sumers who def­i­nite­ly do not want to be con­tact­ed by these routes.”

The fact of the mat­ter is that most Euro­pean con­sumers favor mobile apps as the means to be mar­ket­ed over oth­er chan­nels. Why might that be true? Well, if you think about it for just a moment, mobile apps are a con­sumer con­trolled pull tech­nol­o­gy. They decide to down­load it. They decide when to turn it on. They decide when to turn it off. They decide to unin­stall it if it’s not meet­ing their per­for­mance and con­tent expectations.

It all comes down to tru­ly under­stand­ing your audi­ence. A good exam­ple what I mean can be found in the brand Red Bull. They take a sim­ple and direct approach. Use all that cus­tomer data to find out what that audi­ence is all about. In this case, extreme, and niche sports, art and music—you know, genre spe­cif­ic things, and they gave it to them by spon­sor­ing pop­u­lar and trend­ing ath­letes and mak­ing real con­tri­bu­tions to the cul­ture around motor­sports, bik­ing, surf­ing, etc. They devel­oped a mag­a­zine all about those gen­er­a­tional interests—not about Red Bull. At the time, they raked in the rev­enue when their cus­tomer has read the mag­a­zine while drink­ing a Red Bull.

What is comes down to is to deliv­er a ser­vice to your cus­tomer to gain their trust and loy­al­ty. They will reward the brand for doing it. This approach requires a seri­ous shift in cul­ture and think­ing. But if we real­ly want the cus­tomer to iden­ti­fy with the brand and become a brand advo­cate, we must focus on deliv­er­ing tan­gi­ble val­ue to them. They will buy a Red Bull for their friends too.

Trust-based Mar­ket­ing

Trust-based mar­ket­ing is not new. The the­o­ry orig­i­nat­ed in 2003 at MIT. It has its own Wikipedia page that inter­est­ing­ly enough aligns quite well with the dis­cus­sions in both the Edel­man Trust­Barom­e­ter reports and the Fastmap studies.

Dr Glen L. Urban, the orig­i­na­tor of the con­cept, argues, “Trust-based com­pa­nies have high­er cus­tomer reten­tion and more sta­ble rev­enue streams. The pre­dic­tion is that trust-based busi­ness­es will, in the end, have high­er sales vol­umes and low­er mar­ket­ing costs than com­pa­nies that sur­vive on push-based mar­ket­ing strategies.

As with all con­cepts, the ideas evolve over time. Mar­ket­ing as a Ser­vice (MaaS) is a rel­a­tive­ly recent inven­tion that’s begin­ning to take shape in our new cloud com­put­ing, Inter­net of Things (IoT) world that is run­ning at break­neck speed in redefin­ing mar­ket­ing and dri­ving dis­rup­tive inno­va­tion and change. As demon­strat­ed in the Red Bull exam­ple, mar­ket­ing is becom­ing a ser­vice ori­ent­ed dis­ci­pline as a means to dri­ve sales through trust, loy­al­ty and cus­tomer advo­ca­cy vice inva­sive dis­play and paid adver­tis­ing through a myr­i­ad of paid, owned and social media chan­nels. Adblock has become the customer’s best friend and they know how to use it.

What’s your com­pa­ny doing to bet­ter under­stand the cus­tomer as a means of gain­ing his trust? It’s obvi­ous to me the more and more opti­mized and per­son­al­ized mes­sag­ing has its lim­i­ta­tions. In the Euro­pean mar­ket, impend­ing opt-in leg­is­la­tion will kill third par­ty data sources as the Fastmap study dis­cuss­es in a very effec­tive analy­sis. Give it some thought. What will be your strat­e­gy in the next year or two?