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.”
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. Fastmap.com 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 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?