April 07, 2008

The word trust most likely conjures the feeling(s) deep down in your gut. It does mine. Typically, when I have the slightest "off" feeling, I should follow my gut instead of my head. Trust is core to this. What about brand trust? When you just read the words, what did you think? Was it belief in a brand? Maybe it's based on perception? Or perhaps you thought of brands you trust right off?

If you are a marketer, advertiser, publisher, member of the trade press, etc. and reading this article, you probably use the word "brand" at least a dozen times in your daily work routine. How often do you use the word trust? My guess is that it isn't as often as you should.

Take a closer look and you'll find you, your team, your colleagues, clients, publishers and vendors all talk the same talk. Not to sound too clichéd, most walk the same walk, too. Most strategize, develop, create, market, position, write... toward the goal of developing a brand. Brand awareness. Brand perception. Brand loyalty. Well, brand awareness and brand perception do not say trust to me. In fact, many companies probably have a strong brand perception. That doesn't mean it's good. Same goes for generating brand awareness. For instance, if a consumer uses a new(er) airline for the first time and her flight is delayed, she most likely will have a negative brand perception.

A friend of mine just opened a new restaurant and bar after a long, arduous time filled with uphill battles of zoning and planning board issues. Many local eyes were on him as he knocked down some trashy looking buildings to build his restaurant. When it finally opened with minor announcements to local press and select friends and family, and with minimal advertising, it was a borderline disaster..

Word of mouth spread and the place was "hot" before it even opened. Therefore, too much brand awareness was generated, causing way too many people to show up on opening night. With that I'm sure you'd guess the rest of the story: Long lines and wait times to get a table, guaranteed reservations that happened much later or never at all, shortages of food, dishes, cutlery, and the like, anxiety-ridden service, rushed cooking -- the list goes on and on. Too much brand awareness led to negative brand experiences. As it did in the beginning, word of mouth spread, yielding negative brand perception and mistrust.

When my writing hat is off (or partially on), I own a digital advertising, media, marketing and public relations consultancy. Therefore I eat, sleep and breathe brands. I deal with the negatives: brands that are in trouble or in crisis or suffering from brand fatigue. I also deal with the positives: brand extension, brand launches and rebranding efforts (mainly due to mergers and acquisitions). So, even on a slow day, I am knee-deep or maybe hip-deep in brand essence, brand buzz, brand anything and everything.

All our efforts focus on one core element: the truth. We don't tell clients what they want to hear. Sometimes the reality is ugly. Quite often it is seen as a curve ball or even a sucker-punch. To us and our livelihood, trust is reality. If we don't create, recreate, align, realign, launch and steward brands properly, we are as good as dead (at least career-wise).

Sure, sometimes no matter what we build that's great or what we've repaired, there are factors beyond our control. We must consider them always. Say we represent a fast-food chain geared toward families on the go. All of a sudden some nut job goes in and starts shooting up the place, and the story is plastered allover the regional and most likely national news. Would these parents and kids trust the fast food company? Hell, no! At first most would probably thank their lucky stars they weren't in that particular venue on that day at that time. Then they've probably made up their mind not to go back, ever = no brand trust.

So what's next? We toss it over to the PR folks, of course! No, just kidding! It does have to be all hands on deck. This is why to us it is the core of our philosophies, methodologies and services. To us it's sexy-ugly. What does brand trust mean to you?

By Seana Mulcahy
Courtesy of http://www.mediapost.com

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