Magazine article Marketing

The Marketing Society Forum: Is Winning Consumers' Trust the Biggest Challenge Brands Face Today?

Magazine article Marketing

The Marketing Society Forum: Is Winning Consumers' Trust the Biggest Challenge Brands Face Today?

Article excerpt

Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic.

For more on membership, visit

With the general election at the top of the marketing agenda and the HSBC scandal among the brand crises at the forefront of consumers' minds, trust is a key issue. Marketers must strive to do more to connect with consumers and reassure them that they are authentic and on their side

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YES - Celia Pronto, Group marketing and ecommerce director, Ford Retail (TrustFord) @celiapronto

Together with an increase in consumer access to information, and a willingness to share their experiences publicly, has come the expectation that brands be honest and transparent in their operations At the same time, those brands that don't meet these expectations are increasingly being exposed, causing far-reaching reputational damage You only need to observe the recent scandals surrounding organisations like BP, Tesco and HSBC as examples of this.

The recent recession has also had an impact on customer needs, as we experienced an increased preference for traditional, values-driven brands.

This combination has resulted in consumers becoming more wary of brands than they have ever been, but also developing a real desire to connect with those brands that do create trust.

It doesn't matter how great the service is, how easy brands make it for customers or how much is invested in technology, brands need trust as a fundamental lynchpin of a successful strategy.

NO - Emma Woods, Group marketing director, Merlin Entertainments

The underlying assumption - that banking scandals and slippery politicians have made cynics of British customers - lets us marketers off the hook too easily.

Trust is certainly central to any good business or brand. However, winning it is difficult, not complicated, and, although trust is essential, it's not enough. For me, the biggest branding challenge remains the need to excite customers behind interesting ideas: ideas that meet genuine customer needs; that are authentic to your brand's values; and that offer a clear sense of fresh, exciting and better opportunities.

Finding ideas that inspire customers and help them to live better, happier and more fulfilling lives is still the hardest challenge for any brand today. And crucially, it's one where you must never promise something that you can't deliver.

NO - Giles Hedger, Chief strategy officer, London and worldwide, Leo Burnett @hedgehog14

The biggest challenge facing marketing today is transparency of motive.

The lapses that dent a brand's reputation or trigger a political rush to authenticity are not lapses in behaviour, but lapses in consciousness. People forget how far the consumer contract has evolved; that consumers demand to understand not just the value exchange but what motivates it.

What motivates brand owners, increasingly, is the rapid acquisition of customer data. This motive, linked as it is to privacy, is toxic to the very notion of trust, and brand owners need urgently to 'de-stealth' this component of the relationship.

What motivates political parties, increasingly, is the belief that specific policies can, if correctly packaged, achieve a victory of self-interest. …

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