Customer trust is at an all-time low and there’s little wonder as to why.
Everywhere they turn, established institutions are letting them down. The Government, still reeling from Brexit, appears rudderless, and the ‘fake news’ epidemic has undermined the authority of the media. Meanwhile, the business fraternity is still associated with the profit-driven culture that led to the financial crash.
Add to this broader trends, such as populism and globalisation, and a bleak picture starts to emerge of a sociopolitical landscape largely defined by fear and uncertainty.
Nurturing and growing a brand in this climate is a challenge but marketers can’t sit back and accept that distrust is inevitable. Instead, we need to take meaningful actions that prove our commitment to the customer and their interests.
I believe the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) presents an opportunity to do this.
For too long brands have played a cat and mouse game with customers, seeking to bend regulatory rules as far as possible in the name of profit. This has damaged our relationship with customers immeasurably.
With GDPR, we have a chance to take a new approach to compliance. We can stop focusing on dodging fines and refocus our attention on customer needs. By embracing the Regulation and championing privacy, we can reestablish our relationship with customers on common ground. Maybe then we can earn their trust.
Identifying a purpose will help brands on this journey. Every business should make a unique and positive difference to the world and it’s up to CMOs to tell this story. Unilever is a great example of how taking a stand and communicating core beliefs can help a brand win the respect of consumers.
The benefits of establishing a transparent and authentic brand go beyond increased profits. As the influence of politicians and media tsars wanes, consumers may well look to new institutions for guidance and direction. I believe that brands now have a very real opportunity to fill this role and become agents of social change.
Businesses can be more agile and independent than political bodies and have less to lose by nailing their colours to the mast. They may also be more effective at delivering on their objectives. A case in point is entrepreneur Ivan Massow, who last year claimed he achieved more social change as a businessman than he ever did as a politician.
So whilst a transparent and trustworthy brand can help boost profits, maybe it’s time businesses dreamt a little bit bigger. After all, who doesn’t want to change the world for the better?