It's a matter of trust

As marketers we sometimes get a bad wrap. Last week someone said to me..... “You guys are capitalists, out to manipulate people …getting them to waste their hard earned money, buying stuff they don’t even need”
I must say this challenged my self-concept…I thought marketing was a force for good – delivering choices to consumers & making businesses more accountable? Remember that More Meaningful Marketing mantra that ChangeAgents believes in?
I took their comment square on the chin…after all we’re in the perception business, so its healthy getting a peek into what people really think about what we do for a living.
What was even more alarming is that in a recent study on ‘the most & least trusted professions’ it turns out that advertising people are amongst the least trusted... coming in second last after car salespeople...a position they've consistently held for the last 30 years.

Trust Me...Danny De Vito in the movie Matilda (great family movie if you haven't seen it) 

Trust Me...Danny De Vito in the movie Matilda (great family movie if you haven't seen it) 

The research was conducted in Australia and the results confirm some of our favourite prejudices. Nurses seem to top the trust charts across most countries and I wonder how Irish jobs would compare?

The last couple of years has seen a radical change in the relationship between business and society. Events ranging from the baking collapse to the horse meat scandal have put business behaviour firmly under the microscope.
Ironically brands are all about ‘anxiety reduction’ and yet we seem to be increasing it? We sell 'likability & trust' and yet we're not liked or trusted!?

What’s fascinating is that the whole concept of branding hinges around trust:

  • Trust between employees and the brand (culture)
  • Trust between the brand & the consumer (product, service & experience)
  • Trust between the brand & their agencies (communications)

Here are some thoughts on the root causes and why this ‘trust gap’ exists:

  • People don’t trust advertising and by association don’t trust advertisers
  • Any true profession must have domain specific knowledge - but ours has no fixed definitions
  • There are many paths to marketing with everyone claiming to be the ‘expert’ – so it’s difficult for clients to discern who’s qualified & who isn’t
  • Marketing is broad - it crosses a number of different disciplines – research, brand strategy, design, advertising, digital, pr etc
  • It’s also a science and an art – this makes is difficult to understand and even harder to measure 
  • Historically marketing has been more about commercial gain rather than social good

As marketers we need to take a cold hard look at some of the 'pain points' and begin to make our profession more professional. We should use our own creativity to design solutions that address client needs in a way that builds trust & confidence in what we do.

Instead of investing heavily on using advertising to sell at people marketers should spend more time understanding their clients purpose and building a depth of authenticity and meaning into their brands.
Recent research by TNS & Ogilvy says that people chose brands 42% more often if they engage with them on points of passion & interest than competing products which simply urge them to buy the goods being advertised.

This lack of trust extends from the people behind advertising to the advertising itself. It seems from research in Nielsens 2013 Trust in Advertising Report. that not all advertising is trusted equally by customers.

Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, often referred to as EARNED MEDIA is still the most trusted & influential form of advertising. In a socially connected world where people can share their thoughts & views...this is becoming very powerful.

What's revealing is that traditional advertising  seems more trusted than online advertising (SEO and PPC) which is known as PAID MEDIA. This shows that a lot of digital marketing is suspiciously like old fashioned marketing & media - trying to get people to click rather than to care.

It was promising to see that OWNED MEDIA (Branded web sites containing content that is of interest, value and use to customers) is also highly trusted.

This was the subject of a recent 'controversial talk' that ChangeAgents did at the Digital Media & Marketing Summit in Dublin & you can view the video here

So for agencies, clients and's time to think about how to rebuild & restore trust. This may involve building a new kind of that reflects the ethics of care more fully in it's behaviours, thinking and decisions.