Marketing is continuously becoming more and more sophisticated. Algorithms, AI and automation are breaking marketing efforts into granular pieces pushing the audience one more step down the funnel. But as martech becomes more and more dominant, the basic meaning of marketing sometimes gets lost.
20 years of dealing with marketing strategies of all kinds brought to the understanding that at the end of the day it all comes to one fundamental thing: building trust.
Can I trust the brand or not?
Do I believe that it can deliver what it promises?
Do I believe the product will look exactly the same as it is shown on the site or on the ad?
Do I believe that if something goes wrong — I'll be treated in a fair manner?
If I feel that this brand or business cannot be trusted — nothing that it’ll say or do will have any impact.
That’s why trust is the cornerstone of marketing.
Obviously trust is becoming more and more important as we feel more vulnerable in high risk circumstances. So, when dealing with high value deals like buying a car or choosing an investment bank (which we understand very little of) — trust is becoming crucial. But trust is also relevant when buying a table of chocolate (trusting that the production lines are clean), buying a new cell phone (warranty issues) or signing another long “service agreement” for Google or Apple (Next. Next. Next. Agree)
Professor James Davis of Utah State University has been researching trust for years and came up to the conclusion that trust is driven by 3 main drivers:
(1) Perceived Ability — Do I believe that the brand has the ability to perform what it says it can perform. For example, mentioning my 20 years of experience was my way of building readers’ perception that I have the professional background and ability to write this piece.
Ability always comes in a context (You might believe that I may know something about marketing, but nothing here applies that I know anything about car engines. BTW — I don’t).
(2) Perceived Benevolence — Do I believe that the brand care about me. Does it understand what I’m going through and will there be anyone there to help me if needed? Can I count on the service team to really see me?
(3) Perceived integrity — Does the brand have a set of values that I can relate to. Do we see “right” and “wrong” the same way?
Following these 3 drivers, marketing that is aimed at building trust will focus on (1) Building ability perception: what makes us good and professional at what we do. (2) Our caring attitude: When practicing a consumer centric strategy and positioning we signal the potential clients that we see them, understand them, and be there for them when needed. (3) Sharing a set of values and associations that our audience can relate to.
To sum, Trust is the cornerstone of marketing. First you build trust and only then you can can go on with other marketing objectives like building preference, lead generation etc.