“You would be hard-pressed to find an issue more prevalent in our industry than trust.”
These were the words chosen by Matt Scheckner, Global CEO of Advertising Week, for his opening address at the 2019 APAC Advertising Week conference in Sydney.
His prognosis set the tone for the three-day event, but also spoke to the ongoing conversation in the worlds of marketing, advertising and news media: how can we gain and maintain the trust of our audiences?
Michelle Hutton is the Managing Director of Global Client Strategy at Edelman, the firm behind the groundbreaking Trust Barometer reports.
“Perhaps, today, brand trust is more important than brand love,” she told attendees to her Advertising Week keynote.
“People are telling us that they expect more from businesses and brands than ever before.”
Hutton hits on a key issue here: to earn trust, you have to go beyond the bare minimum of what is expected. Trust is earned through being seen making responsible decisions and taking a proactive role in society.
Trust isn’t just about having faith in a product to do what’s claimed on the packaging, Edelman research tells us. More and more, consumers are telling us through their buying habits that unless they trust the company behind the product, they will soon stop buying it.
What role can marketers and advertisers play?
As brands make bigger promises and compete for positive consumer sentiment, they look to marketing professionals to help them build more trust.
They also look to us to get the messaging right. If bold claims of corporate and social responsibility aren’t supported with evidence of action taken, consumers soon grow wary of the façade.
“Woke-washing is beginning to infect our industry,” warned Unilever CEO Alan Jope at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
“It’s polluting purpose. It’s putting in peril the very thing which offers us the opportunity to help tackle many of the world’s issues. What’s more, it threatens to further destroy trust in our industry, when it’s already in short supply.”
“Purpose-led brand communications is not just a matter of ‘make them cry, make them buy’. It’s about action in the world.”
Marketers need to ensure that they are doing enough to advise brands/clients about purpose, especially when it comes to conversations that are larger than the category, such as sustainability or equality.
Earn their trust, earn their attention
The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that when consumers trust a brand or organisation, they give their attention to the messaging.
This isn’t a demographic-restricted consideration, either: Edelman’s research shows that brand trust is essential across markets, ages and incomes. This is becoming mainstream and is no longer something that brands can afford to ignore.
What’s more, AdTrust research by NewsMediaWorks points to the importance of trust for brands wanting to turn advertising spend into conversions: the more you trust an ad, the more likely you are to purchase.
According to Michael Miller, CEO of News Corp Australia, “Trust is now the biggest influencer of what you will buy.” Miller told crowds at Advertising Week that he believed trust is now more important than reputation, a relevant consideration for the head of a media giant.
“We see a growth in consumers buying trusted news from a brand that they trust,” he said.
In this way, trust has become a commodity that can be measured and factored into marketing strategies. Russel Howcroft of PwC, agreed with Miller’s emphasis on trust and consumer sentiment, emphasising the need for companies to invest in brand perception.
Case study: Facebook
If there’s any company that understands the delicate balance of maintaining the trust of consumers, it’s global social media giant Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s platform has been plagued by scandals related to data misuse, privacy violations and other unseemly behaviour, influencing the plummeting consumer trust in the company.
But Facebook is making significant moves to regain trust through strategic investment of resources.
Antonio Lucio is Facebook’s new global CMO. He’s been tasked with reshaping public perception of the platform.
“Trust cannot be built by words alone, trust has to be rebuilt with meaningful actions,” he told marketing leaders at Advertising Week in Sydney.
“The role of my team is to ensure that those actions are communicated to the right audiences. We are mapping out the right message for each of those audiences.”
While scarce on the details, Lucio highlighted the need to rebuild a strong emotional connection between Facebook’s users and the brand itself.
It seems that Lucio will have his work cut out for him. An August 2019 report from The Wall Street Journal found that 60 per cent of US adults surveyed did not trust Facebook with their personal information. In Australia, social media remain the least trusted of all media types. Users don’t trust the news on social media compared to other digital sources, nor do they trust the ads they see on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Differentiation key for brands in “problem” categories
What’s a brand to do when it finds itself in a category that is being rocked by scandals?
Former politician Anna Bligh (now with the Australian Banking Association) warned Advertising Week attendees that if there is lowered trust in an industry, it will affect even the most trusted local business in that industry. She used the example of a local MP’s good reputation becoming damaged by national distrust of their political party.
As a follow-up to this, Russel Howcroft (PwC) highlighted the need for brands to differentiate because whenever there is a problem it is attached to the whole category, it will affect all brands within the category.
Trust in the media
For those in news media and publishing, trust is already a key consideration and concern. Readers want to be able to trust editors and media decision-makers to provide them with truthful, accurate information.
“A great experience enhances the trust in content”, said Twitter’s Olly Wilton at his Advertising Week presentation.
“Blend good content with quality insights…to further engage consumers and grow audiences.”
For Meabh Quoirin (Foresight Factory), “meaningful recognition and consistency” is more important to maintaining audience trust than constantly chasing the latest trends.
“Think about what things will stay relevant to consumers,” she said.
And what about the impact of fake news? NewsCorp’s Julian Delany believes that there is an opportunity for news media brands to position themselves as the antidote to fake and fraudulent sources that have appeared in the digital landscape.
“The trusted publishers that have played the long game are the ones that have survived,” he said.