Trust is Not Enough
Trust is like the bass control – certainly necessary, but only one part of your well-balanced brand.
Discounts are the retailer drug of choice. Like most drugs, discounts give users a high at first, then they need more and more to maintain that high; meanwhile their health wastes away.
This was apparent a few years ago when the research came in for a prominent national fashion chain.
Women personified the chain as the life and soul of the party – but you wouldn’t take him home. The clothes were fashionable, the ads were attractive, but the constant sales made people think: They are just putting up the prices so they can discount them again. They are ripping us off. So I’ll buy what’s on discount, I won’t touch anything else.
As usual, consumers weren’t far off the mark. To maintain their margins, the retailer had to increase mark-ups overall. At first, as discounted merchandise was less than 10 percent of turnover, the mark-up was small. But as more went on discount, the mark-ups increased, consumers stopped buying non-discounted items, resulting in higher mark-ups and less non-discounted items being sold.
The retailer was trapped. They went cold turkey, lost a lot of money, shareholders fired the leadership and with a back to basics policy clawed back to profitability.
While trust is hard to build, it is easy to destroy. And when trust goes, so do profits.
Johann Rupert once called a brand a trustmark and he is partly right. While trust is an essential element for a successful brand, it will not by itself guarantee success.
When you assess a brand and prepare a strategy, consider four elements, or to borrow an analogy from Raymond Ackerman – make sure you have four solid legs to support the brand table. These legs are:
First Leg: Everything starts with awareness
Mother Theresa, one of the most formidable marketers of the 20th century, was asked why she took dignitaries to the leper colony. She replied: ”It all starts with awareness. Awareness leads to interest, then interest leads to love and love leads to service.”
It’s the non-profit version of AIDA – attention, interest, desire, action.
Today we see national brands, some leaders in their field, falling at the first hurdle. Brands that have been around the marketplace a long time may have high aided awareness, but score low on spontaneous mentions. This is usually bad news – it means everyone knows you, but few think of you – you’re the third or fourth choice.
New brands often make an initial impact, pick the low-hanging fruit, then fail to grow because their awareness does not spread. A service brand recently researched, whilst being the biggest of its kind, is simply not known by the majority of its potential market, despite a constant flow of advertising. In this instance we discovered that the communications assume too much – instead of hammering home the brand and its key benefit, the advertiser is focusing on specific features. It’s an old truth that when brand-owner and agency are fed up with the advertising and want to change, the message is just beginning to get through to the consumer.
I used to wonder why multinationals like Sony and
Coca-Cola spend huge amounts to have huge illuminated logos across cityscapes. Surely everyone knows them – well, as most long-term married couples will tell you it is not enough to say “I love you” once in a blue moon. Enduring relationships need constant reminders.
Second Leg: Affinity is the gateway
Think of the decisions that have the biggest financial consequences in your life; buying a car and house; marriage and children. Whether it’s the shape of the car, the feel of the house, love or broodiness, you are initially drawn by some kind of attraction.
Good salespeople know they need to establish a rapport before they make a sale. And so it is with brands. BMW and Mercedes both make luxury automobiles with a German pedigree. They compete in the same market segments, yet their appeal is quite different. BMW opens up the boy and girl racer within us, whilst Mercedes talks gently to the secret snob. We are disarmed by those who know and relate with our inner selves.
Anton Rupert was the master of affinity marketing. Peter Stuyvesant appealed to youth starved of international interaction, Rothmans appealed to the in-control professional whilst Lexington was the action-men cigarette – a precursor to Carling Black Label. Leo Burnett created a campaign that added more brand value than any other in history when he changed Marlboro, up until then positioned as a woman’s cigarette and failing miserably, into the stuff of cowboy legend, appealing to all the suburbanites who psychologically yearn for the freedom of the wide open spaces.
Recent research conducted for two diet soft drinks showed a fascinating psychographic difference between them. One appealed most strongly to women who are inner directed, believing health comes from the inside and looking good is a matter of self-esteem. The other appeals to the ‘wow, look at me now’ woman who seeks to make a statement and thrives on applause. A new commercial has aired for the inner-directed brand featuring a woman basking in attention – we predict a loss of affinity and brand confusion.
Your brand DNA is made up of personality and promise. Brand-owners too often agonise over the promise they will make, whilst leaving the brand personality to the whim of the creative department.
A salesman who wears a suit and tie one day, jeans and t-shirt the next, will confuse his market and probably himself. Brands that do not consistently build affinity by developing their personality through everything they do will be seen as questionable.
Third Leg: Trust is the gatekeeper
Let’s go back to those significant buying decisions;
I like the car, but I’m worried about its low resale value.
I adore the house, but I’m not sure about how well it was built.
I love him, but I think he’ll play around.
We’d love to have kids, but we’re so busy right now…
While affinity is a gateway, trust is so often the gatekeeper. It happens when you are tempted to buy, but… you may not trust the quality, value for money, longevity, or you may not trust yourself to enjoy the purchase.
You certainly will not trust a brand that has let you down. A good definition of a brand is a promise kept. It would be disastrous for Avis to say we try harder and then no-one bothers to answer the phone. It would be equally disastrous for a smoker to find one of his cigarettes has rat droppings. Anton Rupert recognised this when he said how incredibly difficult it is to maintain brand trust. A 20-a-day smoker goes through 7 300 cigarettes a year. If only one of them was partially filled – equivalent to 99,97 percent no fault ratio – the smoker would kick up a stink and possibly change brands.
Toyota has built a great brand and now global leadership on reliability that runs right through the production process. Lexus in the States outsells Mercedes mainly because it tops no-fault ratings.
Reliability is not the only way to gain trust (although a lack of reliability inevitably diminishes your brand faith). We trust the word of others and Omo became brand leader though the Omo postbag – housewives sharing their dirty and clean laundry. Even the phrase ‘as seen on TV’ inspires trust – we know it is not a hole in the wall operation.
Anton Rupert built trust though the coats of arms he put on his cigarette packs – they lent the products some gravitas.
When pitching for work we mention clients like Coca-Cola, FNB, Investec and Unesco. Service companies are judged and trusted by the company and clients they keep.
In our research we find most banks inspire little trust. It is not a belief that they will go bust – rather the mistrust of an ongoing relationship, especially if and when a customer hits a sticky patch. The trust in life assurance companies has also eroded – a troubling trend for a country that needs to develop a culture of saving.
When trust is high, mishaps need not be setbacks. Pick ‘n Pay did not lose business over the poisoning threat; we speculate it would have been a different story if the intended victim had been Shoprite Checkers.
Fourth Leg: Territory is the promised land
Yamaha can sell concert pianos and motor-bikes. Steinway can only sell the pianos. Both brands are admired and trusted – the territory they own in people’s minds is the difference between them. This territory was carved out by the brand-owners. Steinway is about making the finest pianos. Yamaha is about making finely tuned instruments and pieces of machinery. Their logo shows their brand ambition – it has three tuning forks.
Territory can be as wide as Virgin, as narrow as SAA. Often territory grows through adjacencies. Nando’s know about peri-peri, so from take-aways and quick service restaurants to peri-peri sauces, are small brand steps, albeit giant distribution leaps. Discovery Health moving to life assurance seems logical and it is debatable whether Old Mutual’s response of Oxygen should rather have been the brand re-enforcing Mutual Health. Brands can also jump product categories – witness Marlboro and Jeep selling clothes – while Peter Stuyvesant is a cigarette and
Land-Rover a 4×4.
Often a brand will seek to extend its territory with a notable lack of success. Levi’s made a disastrous foray into casual clothes under its own brand, before finding success with Dockers. The Levi’s brand territory is and always will be confined to jeans, while Guess can also sell sunglasses, watches and perfume. Guess, like Marlboro, Discovery and Jeep, promote lifestyles that lend themselves to brand extensions.
Awareness, affinity, trust, territory & potential territory can all be researched and when they are seen together you will receive an accurate map of your brand as depicted in your stakeholders’ minds. When you know where your brand is, you will know what you need to strengthen, what needs to change. Think of your brand like a hi-fi system – do you need more bass, is the treble too harsh, perhaps a more powerful mid-range? Or is the first requirement to turn up the volume so your audience can hear the music?
Trust is like the bass control – certainly necessary, but only one part of your well-balanced brand.
Mike Freedman is a partner of Freedthinkers – a research and brand development think-tank that has developed BrandView – a proprietary technique that explores awareness, affinity, trust & territory.