It’s ironic, absurd, and also perfectly sensible that, in a time when exchanging personal info online is as socially acceptable as a handshake, trust is flagging like never before. Our willingness to trade information has saturated every marketplace with data, thanks to which motives have never been more transparent, or obscured. Each brand presents a narrative along with its products. Sources often contradict, and among endless choices, it can be difficult for the average consumer to tell which will best serve them.
With the value of the word “truth” itself apparently depreciating, it’s safer for consumers to assume that they should take every piece of information with more than one grain of salt. To the savvy marketer, this is both a complication and a benefit. Winning customers’ trust is still possible, perhaps more so than ever; however agencies must adapt to a shifting paradigm of trust; one in which brand loyalty is far from unconditional, and lasting trust is awarded to those who provide an experience that consumers can reliably anticipate as pleasurable and exciting.
In her book, Who Can You Trust? How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Could Drive Us Apart, Oxford business lecturer Rachel Botsman defines trust as “a confident relationship with the unknown.” She notes that trust today flows more comfortably between institutional peers holding similar authority, and is slow to transfer to those perceived as either elites within an institution, or those outside its bounds.
The rising popularity of the peer to peer (P2P) economy exemplifies this trend. To compete, business-to-community (B2C) brands must become more personal; they need to embrace transparency, accountability, and a dynamic business model, Botsman says. They have to build a sense of belonging and generate what a global study by IBM iX terms “trustworthy excitement”: the association consumers draw between trust in a brand, and the eagerness they feel when imagining future experiences with that brand.
Companies questioning how to engender this anticipation can look to Netflix as an example. Out of 172 companies, IBM scored Netflix among the highest in its ability to produce trustworthy excitement in viewers. With new shows always on the horizon, and a powerful social media presence constantly pushing trailers and countdowns to new releases, Netflix delivers on the promise of good things to come.
IBM’s customer survey analysis states that for a brand to score high on trustworthy excitement, it needs to achieve three consumer demands: It has to make life more enjoyable, make customers excited about their next experience with the brand, and be a brand that consumers trust. While Netflix scored high in all three categories, the automaker Tesla was found lacking in the category of pure trust—likely due to controversy over autonomous driving accidents, as well as stalling production of the Model 3 sedan—although its overall score was relatively high.
Unsurprisingly, Tesla did extremely well in the other two categories. The company has a reputation for world-changing innovation and wild publicity stunts that leave fans waiting in exhilaration.
Consumers today derive trust less from long-term product reliability than a companies’ penchant for offering the thrill of the new, exciting and innovative. Today’s most trusted brands generate loyalty from the consumer data they use to create a stream of enjoyable experiences, which consumers are happy to continually engage with.