For several years, consumers’ feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for the future have been compounded by fears for the effects of human behaviour on the environment. This feeling of uncertainty, which has, in fact, become quite normal and is referred to as the ‘’#neveralnormal’’, is reflected in consumers’ lack of trust in established institutions and brands. As we all have seen in the newspapers, familiar brands are experiencing difficulties, with many household names going into administration, and a downturn in Europe’s share of the Top 250 global retailer’s revenues since 2006.
Economic uncertainty, political tension, environmental change and the 4th industrial revolution have been the main forces of dramatic change. The Gilets Jaunes/French Yellow Vests protests in France, the arrival of a populist government in Italy and Brexit in the UK all reflect deep-seated political and economic discontent.
With further political upheaval expected in 2019, consumers’ crisis of trust is deepening, and leading to greater emotional involvement and action.
This brings us to a set of marketing “commandments” to meet the new consumer’s expectations.
COMMANDMENT 1: CONTENT, CONTEXT AND CONTACTS
To retain consumer trust, brands must be mindful of the context for their adverts. If they are placed next to unethical content, they stand the risk of being accused of being linked too or even funding that content, and consumer trust will inevitably be affected.
Content-wise, brands have been accused of condoning “fake” news by running their adverts next to it and inadvertently financing it at the same time. It has been argued that advertisers are unaware of what content their adverts in fact support, but Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, suggests that this is a weak excuse, calling it, in fact, a “moral failure”:
The third element “contacts” shows that the number of times an advert is run also impacts trust. In 2017, Forbes showed that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day.
OMD Latvia conducted an online bespoke quantitative study to illustrate this point at the Mi:t&Links. Conference FALSE THINKING conference in Riga, March the 8th.
63% of 18-75 years old living in Latvia claim seeing the ad too many times reduces Trust in Advertising
COMMANDMENT 2: BE CLEAR AND DELIVER ON YOUR PROMISE
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in May 2018, underlines the importance of consumer trust, giving consumers more control over their data at the same time as offering reassurance that these are in safe hands. In 2018, IBM ran a study, which showed that 73% of people were concerned about their privacy on internet sites and 65% did not trust social media companies to handle personal data responsibly. GDPR could be regarded as a simple compliance issue, but it could also be seen as a catalyst for businesses to implement new business models with consumer trust at their core.
With the advent of AI and fast developing technology, like 5G, transparency has become particularly important owing to the potential misuse of an increasing amount of new data that are intended to provide a more personal approach, as well as delivering the ultimate in modern living standards in our homes. If data is handled badly, consumer trust will inevitably be lost. The downside of GDPR, however, is that data protection is couched in legal terms that laymen find difficult to understand, highlighting a need for simplification.
COMMANDMENT 3: AUTHENTICITY IS THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION
One example of a lack of authenticity took place in September 2018 when renowned social media influencer Scarlett Dixon was paid to promote Listerine on her Instagram page. Whilst she highlighted that the post was an ad, she was highly criticised for the content being completely staged. After all, who wakes up with perfect make up and hair, balloons next to their bed and Listerine on their bedside table?
Instead of relying on celebrities to bump up their sales, brands are now turning to nano-influencers: everyday consumers who tell small communities of friends about their favourite products, thus creating trusted content for brands. Kate Edwards, the COO of the social marketing technology startup, Heartbeat, explains how it works, “Brands have always known that word-of-mouth marketing works well, but it hasn’t been until now that we’ve had the technology to activate this channel in a scalable, cost-effective way. That’s why brands are moving away from influencers and celebrities, and more toward recognising the voices of everyday consumers.” In addition, CGI avatars are beginning to replace human influencers. Examples include the virtual models, Lil Miquela and Shudu, who engage with their fans just like any human influencer would, maintaining transparency and building trust.
COMMANDMENT 4: ACT AS A GOOD CITIZEN WOULD
Brands should see themselves as individuals with moral values. For instance, in October 2017, Corona came out in support of its native country, Mexico, following a devastating earthquake. It re-branded three million beer cans as “Mexico Extra” and donated the proceeds to reconstruction projects. It also encouraged involvement with relief projects through its website mexicoextra.com.
COMMANDMENT 5: STAND OUT FOR A POINT OF VIEW
As social media gives louder voices to extreme views, brands are asked more and more to standout for a point of view.
Taking inspiration from the Me Too Movement, in January 2019 the shaving brand Gillette launched a new ad campaign which features a nearly 2-minute-long video drawing inspiration from the Me Too movement by tackling issues like sexual harassment, bullying and toxic masculinity. Reactions on social media have been mixed. There are many people praising the video for encouraging all men to do the right thing. However, it also has many people threatening to boycott the company, accusing them of lumping men into one group, painting a bad picture for men all over the world.
Another example of a brand assuming a moral stance was when Nike chose Kaepernick to front their 30th anniversary poster. The well-known footballer had brought attention to police brutality against African-Americans by kneeling down during the national anthem and refusing to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour”. Nike came out in support of his decision to stand up for his personal beliefs.
COMMANDMENT 6: DEVELOP GREATER EMPATHETIC UNDERSTANDING
As we all know, marketing is moving from “mass to me”. At OMD, we believe that every interaction a consumer has with a brand represents an opportunity to create a valuable relationship, with “empathy”, the backbone of trust, being key.
As planners who design end-to-end consumer experience to create valued relationships between brands and their consumers, we at OMD try to anticipate consumer needs through a deep understanding of our audiences, their untapped needs and desires, exploring ways in which a brand can use communications and media to fulfil them.
OMD predicts that in the future we will increasingly see engineered empathy as a key driver of success. As consumers are feeling more comfortable with AI and robots, they will be expecting emotional interactions from brands through AI. Empathetic services that help deliver human-like interactions in all contexts, by adapting to the customer’s real time emotional state, will be always welcomed by consumers.
But until then…get the principles right: Be credible, transparent, reliable and consumer first seem to be some of the main key drivers of consumers’ trust. And then…be aware of the trust corrode-rs that advertising is in control of and follow, if appropriate, the above suggested commandments.