Strategic marketing buzzwords come and go. Brand identity, personality, innovation, differentiation, distinctiveness, have all had their day in the sun. Some, like distinctiveness, haven’t gone away and still remain as relevant today as when they were all the talk. But there is a new kid on the block whcih, like many of its predecessors, has always been important to the marketing of any product or service, it has just lurked in the shadows. It’s about time it crawled out into the spotlight.
We only buy products or services from companies and brands we trust. Our choice may be the most expensive, the cheapest, the prettiest or ugliest – if we trust the company or brand it comes from we will buy it. This goes for B2C and B2B offerings, high value purchases and low value purchases. Even new products that we have never bought before have somehow instilled a level of reassuring trust.
Rarely is trust in a brand rigorously and rationally calculated. Usually it is subliminal, developed through intuition and gut-feel. It is never a given. It has to be earnt. Once established it’s not guaranteed – one negative can blow it.
So, how can a company, product, service, brand not only instil trust in the target customer but instil more trust than its competitors? How can it ensure that hard-won trust is not lost?
As with most marketing issues it goes back to basics. Assuming you have an intimate knowledge of the target customer and your product or service is what the customer is prepared to buy - it delivers what he or she wants at the right price - the customer experience needs to be optimised. Here are the most important things you can do to ensure a good customer experience and therefore instil trust:
· Make it easy for customers to purchase your product
· Identify your product’s key customer benefits
· Provide excellent customer service
· Communicate clearly, honestly and openly
· Use advertising, PR and social media to reach as many people as possible within given budgets
· Don’t assume your customers care much about your brand – they don’t!
· Never assume customers’ loyalty
· Encourage word-of-mouth
· Don’t bullshit
· Deliver surprising bits of kindness
For me, a good example of brand trust is Pret. Of the plethora of coffee shops available, I seek out the nearest Pret. They have consistently actioned all the good practices above. I like the simplicity of the outlet, quality of the coffee, service ethic, the company’s social responsibility and its very clear messaging. And I have received a surprising bit of kindness when, one day, I ordered a Pret coffee and was told I didn’t need to pay for it. Has it made me want to go back…of course.
Brand trust is vital to the long-term success of a brand. None of the steps required to instil trust are difficult or necessarily expensive but they do rely on the right company mindset that has to be consistently adhered to.