Is Transparency Your Brand’s Chum? Your Guide to Building Trust Through Emotion.

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Today, a brand needs to be transparent - and have a genuinely positive identity behind that transparency - to gain trust. To be transparent isn’t exactly a choice now; brand opacity is nearly impossible given the access even the average consumer has to your business methods and values online, from reviews to news about you. Transparency can wildly swing in your favour - or against. And the great thing is you get to decide which way it goes.

What Consumers Really Care About

Sure, the quality of product counts. But consumers want more than a good product - they want credible brand morals and a brand experience that feels human. The chart below shows consumer responses to the question ‘what’s most important to you when deciding on brand, outside of the product itself?’

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12% of those surveyed reported that what’s most important to them is the way the brand makes them feel. As massive advocates of emotional connection between brand and customer, we’re not surprised. It’s got to feel good and what feels good is changing rapidly as the world wakes up to bigger issues such as ecology, equality and empowerment. When companies lack a strong brand DNA they ultimately find it hard to create genuine brand experiences for those they serve. It’s not enough to say it, you have to be it.

A New Climate. Are You Friend or Foe?

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer marked the largest-ever drop in trust across all institutions, including business, media, government, and NGOs. Edelman’s research shows that it’s not individuals alone who have been demonised; it’s the concept of authority itself; people now consider ‘a person like me’ to be more trustworthy than an authority.

On the flipside; consumers are enthusiastic about brands that demonstrate a consistent and caring approach both to them and to the world. And they’re hugely skeptical of those that don’t. This trend is, thankfully for evolution, only going to grow. Consumers are doing more research than ever and asking companies direct questions such as where they source materials, what their values on specific social areas, like gender, are, and how they’re serving the world as a whole.

Trust is Liquid Gold

“We forget that trust is like liquid gold, or social glue – it’s the one thing that‘s enabled human beings to cooperate and collaborate since the beginning of time,” says Rachel Botsman, a world-renowned trust expert, lecturer at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, and Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.

So, ask yourself honestly, are you placing enough value on your brand values?

Swap Rationality for Empathy

When trust is breached, swapping rationality out for empathy can help to rebuild it. In emotional times, brands that can tap into public feeling can build deeper forms of trust. Botsman notes that “many organisations are starting to look at trust through an emotional, behavioural lens.” Even once trust is broken, approaching the issue through an emotional lens outdoes cold rationality. “When trust is breached, after owning a mistake, the second stage is all about empathy. This is what companies often get wrong – they talk about it in a very practical, rational way rather than demonstrating an understanding of the human consequence of what’s happened.”

The Heart Not the Hand

Brands that try to conquer these issues as an add-on - that treat this crucial part of business as an extremity - will lose out because it won’t feel right for the customer, who’s astuteness is growing rapidly. It’s got to be at the heart of the brand - woven richly through the entire brand DNA. That’s why when businesses follow a more human journey of ‘live and learn’ it comes across as more authentic. To conclude; those brands who know who they are and what they stand for are much more agile and can weather an era of questioning and come out standing strong.