Developing — and keeping — trust has never been more important for advertisers. With consumers being bombarded by a dizzying variety of messages and choices, trustworthiness has emerged as an important differentiator between brands.
In other words, as Richard Eyre, CBE, chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK) would put it, trust is now a key disruptor for advertising. At the 2014 IAB Engage conference, Eyre told advertisers that trust is their most important tool for relating to customers. The main job for today’s brands and agencies, he said, is to secure trust — and hold onto it.
As for what kinds of advertising consumers trust, online seems to be winning out over more traditional formats, though not by much. The 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report found that branded websites are the second-most-trusted advertising format after recommendations from friends and family. Coming in third, around two thirds of consumers trust consumer reviews posted online. Interestingly, traditional formats are not too far behind, with around 60% of consumers trusting TV, newspaper and magazine ads.
The Way I See It
- The advertising industry has always been about trust. What’s different today is that, over time, consumers have learned to be wary of advertising not telling them the whole story. We have been guilty at times of saying one thing and doing another. When consumers have access to unprecedented amounts of information, over-inflated claims and disingenuous tactics will no longer cut it. Today’s consumer sees right through that.
- The purpose of any advertising campaign, no matter the format or delivery method, must be to build trust with the consumer. This is job number one for brands and advertisers. Without consumer trust that is genuinely earned, a brand has nothing.
The Way Industry Sees It
I recently sat down with Richard Eyre, CBE chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK), to discuss his views on the new role that trust has in advertising.
Why do you think trust is now so important for brands? What’s happened to cause the shift?
Marketing technology will transform our business, but only if the customer says so. Without trust, no amount of big data will confer brand advantage. So forget those quirky words on the creative brief —reliable, authoritative, fun, and friendly, etc. ‘Trusted’ is the most important characteristic for all brands, business to business or business to consumer. It is the table stake for use of marketing technology. So far, this may not feel like much of an issue for brand marketers, but artificial intelligence (AI) working the data from the multiplicity of our devices will change all that. Especially as AI machine learning moves on from understanding our wishes to predicting them.
What do you mean when you say trust is a “disruptor”?
Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook — add in major equipment manufacturers like Samsung, Sony and LG, start-ups like Nuance’s Nina or Viv (which premiered recently at Techcrunch Disrupt in New York). They are scrapping for a market that will define the digital world of the future. This is the trusted role of the personal digital assistant provider. We will increasingly delegate to digital assistants, which will learn from us till they can do what all great assistants do, anticipate and predict for us. Such as, “It’s Friday, and you’ve worked late every night this week. Your favorite restaurant has one table for two left at 8pm tonight. I’m holding it for you. Let me know.” Now, that is disruptive marketing. But it won’t happen without brand trust.
Are there advertising practices that we should abandon in this new trust-centered market environment?
The availability of real-time, relevant data is the biggest thing to happen to communications and commerce in my 40 years in this business. Connecting the right message, with the right people, at the right time has given advertisers a sense of control of the metrics; but I think unpredictably, this has reduced the focus on creativity. Finding an ad for exactly the product I’m looking for, gets my attention in a way that was formerly the primary task of creative flair. Chasing me around the internet reiterating the same message also gets my attention, but this horrifyingly clumsy use of transformative technology, rather than building brand relationships, makes me install an ad-blocker. Because I’m being addressed as a data point, this advertiser isn’t thinking about my likely human reaction to pollution of my digital life. We need to restore our passion for the brilliant, unpredictable, ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ creative ideas, working alongside the technology — which by the way, is perfectly capable of frequency capping!
What are some of the best ways for brands to cultivate trust with consumers?
The rules are exactly the same as in human relationships. First is authenticity. Brand values have got to be for real. They cannot be an overlay. They must come from the heart of the brand and reflect the passion in your company. Under the constant scrutiny, chat and discussion are now available to our customers, and marketing communications cannot be a pretty face painted on to the product. They must express truth. Marketing can no longer be a brand’s clothing. It must be its skin. The second is respect. (See the previous question.) The third is consistency. With brands as with friends, some level of dependability is vital so we know who they are, where we stand with them. A great quote from Lorraine Twohill, CMO of Google — ‘Trust is a product of consistency and character over time.’
What does a trustworthy brand look like? How does a trustworthy brand act? Any good examples?
In 2014 Unilever’s annual Report and Accounts, it addressed shareholders in these words: “Our first priority is to our consumers — then customers, employees, suppliers and communities. When we fulfill our responsibilities to them, we believe that our shareholders will be rewarded.” That is, the company’s purpose (‘We work to create a better future every day with brands and services that make people feel good, look good and get more out of life.’) is what drives what they do, and shareholder value is driven by this, not the pursuit of growth for growth’s sake. It’s no longer possible to have one conversation with shareholders and another with customers. Each is listening in on the other. Inconsistent messages zap trust and by this unequivocal statement of priorities, Unilever has laid down its terms of business.
What’s the most interesting thing in your office?
It’s possibly a full-size Baywatch branded surf-board, a relic from my time as Content Director of RTL in Europe — we made the show till 2001. But, probably it’s my radio station, Radio Crimson. After a career in which I have been CEO of one radio group, chairman of another and co-founder of a third, I created www.radiocrimson.com in 2012. It has no shareholders, no advertisers, no staff; just me, the music and some brilliant software, which makes it sound like someone knows what they’re doing here. It’s sitting next to me right now, playing out a ‘hand-picked selection of beautiful tracks with a twist of unpredictable.’ It’s genre fluid, but if you like Joni Mitchell, Hiss Golden Messenger, Fleetwood Mac, Submotion Orchestra and Wilco, give it a go!