Brands and Trust: A background
Trust and Brands are interwoven like the double helix of DNA.. A Brand is much more than the image, logo, name, awareness, experience, campaign, product or trademark. Whilst all of the above (and more) are essential components of a brand, the brand itself is the meeting of an ‘intention’ and a ‘promise’, a confluence that involves Trust. A recent Interbrand survey valued Coca-Cola at US$73 billion, Microsoft at US$70 billion and IBM at US$53 billion. Underpinning that value lies the experience the brand provides to it’s customers. The consumer experience comprises many things.
Today, the iPhone is a textbook case of a brand leveraging a consistent customer experience for it’s customers. The iPhone, and many other leading brands, provide both the experience and the Identity for the customer. My favourite example of a brand with timeless trust is Patek Philippe. The watch is called a ‘chronograph’. There are no prices on the site as far as I could see. The advertising shows that the watch is yours to experience and to ‘hand down to your child’ i.e. a tradition/legacy. This type of branding and the promise it depicts is truly timeless and will remain so.
Thus, Trust is beneficial for brands. Brands want to be trusted and indeed, some are trusted reflecting their market value.
But at the same time, the values, traditions and norms of society are changing and brands are reacting to that change. We see this in many ways – for example – Brands are displaying their “environmentally aware” credentials in response to greater awareness among consumers. The 2011 Edelman survey on Trust ranks financial institutions at the bottom of the ‘Trust’ scale. The survey also indicates attributes like Quality, transparency, Trust and Employee welfare as valued attributes by customers. It goes even further by finding that reputation enhances believability i.e. customers have to hear something about a specific company multiple times for them to believe that information. 26% have to hear the message 4 to 5 times and 59% have to hear it 3 to 5 times. In an era of current media scepticism, customers are influenced by multiple voices and multiple choices and the need for authority and accountability set new expectations for Brands.
The Algorithm lens, the Local lens and the changing balance of Power
However we define Trust, we acknowledge that Trust is a two way processes. Brands need Trust and indeed customers trust some brands which is reflected the high market value of the best known brands. However, the nature of Trust in a brand is changing. The Web has led the first phase of this change as customers have become active and vocal. They are no longer passive consumers. The information they contribute transforms their relationship with brands and in some cases the Brand itself. Beginning in 2005 with the emergance of the Web 2.0 generation, two shifts happened: Firstly, Customers contributed data .Secondly, search engines harnessed that very data to create a ‘filter’ for our online world based on our data. Today, we are living the Social or Facebook era which takes the sharing of data to the personal level and by extension, extends the filter to the our social graph
Increasingly, with the greater availability of data, firms are simply ‘harnessing’ all this data which customers share. Today, the balance of power rests with the providers and with the firms which have the ability to capture data. We do not see the current generation (which we call ‘Screenagers’ – i.e. people who grow up interacting with multiple screens daily), sharing less data. On the contrary, the trend to share more will continue. We also see that companies will continue to harness that data and will provide more services based on Data. This gives the perception that the balance of power has shifted away from the customers and towards the providers (such as Apple, Google, Amazon).
But the balance of power shift may not be so one sided.
Web orientated search engines put an ‘algorithm lens’ over online content. Mobility adds a ‘local lens’ over both physical objects and online content. In other words, the web and mobile based search engines created rankings and thereby a filter or ‘lens’ for search results based on analysis outside of the control of the user. In a multiscreen world that the Screenagers inhabit, these multiple screens will be generative i.e. they will create their own data and by implication contribute to the filters. This filtered data will be used by everyone, which means it could also be used by customers themselves. Customers will be able to see their world through this ‘lens’ of someone else’s data. Customers’ data could be harnessed by others but customers could also easily choose to share key data components and / or create a set of preferences that would ‘colour’ their world through their own data lens to their own benefit
This paradigm could bring back control to customers even when their freely available data can be harnessed by others. Thus, in this phase, all brands will be affected. Just like the Web 2.0 phase produced brands like Amazon and eBay, we will see the rise of new brands which will serve the customer especially when the Screenager mindset will be the dominant paradigm for societies (especially in cities) which affects our physical space. The foundation which drives this relationship will be data.
The Screenagers hypothesis
Data is already changing many areas that we once took for granted – ex Data driven journalism . Data is being released by governments, individuals and companies at a phenomenal rate. Over time, we expect that Open source, Open standard, Peer to Peer initiatives will arise to create this ‘lens’
So, the Screenagers hypothesis is:
a) Brands will be expected to fulfil their promise but that will be only the minimal requirement
b) Customers will continue to share data about themselves and about their brand preferences. This data will continue to be harnessed by providers. The rate of this behaviour (both sharing and harnessing) will increase
c) Simultaneously, it will be possible for customers to harness their own data
d) This data will act as a lens/filter for services
e) This will profoundly change the relationship with brands and new brands will emerge to take advantage of this paradigm and serve the customer better
The screenagers event will explore this hypothesis in detail and will look at three axes i.e. Data, Benefits and Services to create a model to explore this hypothesis
We will explore these ideas in the Digital Footprint Summit Learnings and Insights from the Screenagers – Thursday, November 3, 2011 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (GMT)