Nina Bibby: Being relevant and authentic
The ubiquity and pervasiveness of digital channels and social media mean that we live in a more transparent world. Brand inauthenticity, therefore, has never been easier to sniff out by consumers and once their trust is lost redemption is hard to claw back. “You have to be comfortable that you’re not going to control all the conversations, and therefore end- to-end authenticity and consistency in the brand are essential,” says Nina Bibby, chief marketing officer (CMO) of UK telecommunications services provider O2.
Her ambition is to make 02 “more meaningful and relevant to our customers than ever before”. She continues: “We’ve been able to use technology on some of the issues that matter most, such as helping kids safe online. Through our partnership with the NSPCC, we’ve created an online safety quiz that parents and their children can play together through Alexa.
“Organisations must face issues that are pertinent to them. Brands can do this by showing leadership on the larger issues affecting society. This challenge – to be part of culture in an authentic way – is something that all of us as marketers should have front of mind.”
Omer Shai: Empowering users to tell their stories
A vast majority of business gurus will advise it is critical, these days, to put the customer at the heart of everything. Providing a platform for consumers on which they can promote both themselves and the product is a clever move. If carefully managed, creates a virtuous circle.
Omer Shai, CMO of leading website-building platform wix.com, says: “As a company that focuses mainly on product, our challenges and opportunity is making sure the stories of our users, their needs and successes, are consistently evident in what we create. By lifting up our users, we are able to market real success.
“This is inherently transparent and the challenge becomes ensuring we are able to be bold and creative without losing sight of our goal: telling their stories.” He says the basis for trust comes from “customers believing they are being heard and a company is responsive to their needs”, adding: “We trust our customers and give a lot of credence to their opinions. We believe that nuturing and building these relationships is a key component to everything we do.”
Annabel Rake, CMO for Deloitte in northwest Europe, posits a societal shift in attitude towards workplace wellbeing, diversity and gender equality means organisations will lose credibility with a back- foot approach. Rather, they should embrace this change and lead by example to generate and boost customer, as well as employee, trust. “Whether as consumers of a product, or as clients of a business, people want to have trust and confidence in the brand they are choosing to be associated with,” says Ms Rake.
“This brings with it the expectation people can ask questions that many never have been anticipated even a couple of years ago. Common questions now asekd include those concerning the treatment of workers who make a product, the gender diversity of the team providing a service or a list of the third parties that business uses. While there is not always an obligation to answer, if they don’t. Brands can be perceived as trying to cover up a problem.”
Tom Libretto: Trust through data transparency
“Establishing and maintaining trust-based relationships between brands and their customers has always been the bedrock of any sustainable commercial enterprise, and the primary objective of any CMO worth their salt,” says Tom Libretto, CMO of American software company Pegasystems.
Technology has made us more wary, which means it’s harder for businesses to gain the trust of customers. Mr Libretto continues: “We’re all citizens of a world that has rapidly shifted from a spirit of ‘assume best intentions’ to one that is dominated by scepticism. This is largely fuelled by always-on access to a continuous drumbeat of stories that expose bad actors and call out the fiduciary flaws of companies which don’t know how to properly manage customer data.”
A recent Pega survey revealed that 69 per cent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that handles their data transparently. “Companies that recognised the opportunity the General Data Protection Regulation presented have been able to harness the legislation as a means of establishing trust, not eroding it,” he says.
Leela Srinivasan: Leaning into the feedback economy
Leela Srinivasan, CMO of SurveyMonkey, an online survey development cloud-based software-as-a-service company, believes organisations that attempt to understand the why behind consumers choices will gain favour. “Our research shows that 63 per cent of consumers think marketers are selling them things they don’t need”, she says. “Trust plays a role for 89 per cent of Brits when making a big purchase. Clearly brands have work to so: we’re not listening closely enough to understand how to add value for our customers.”
Data-driven insights help, but should be allied with good old-fashioned human interaction, argues Ms Srinivasan. “While many companies leverage operational data to fuel artificial intelligence, machine-learning and more personalised customer experiences, the savviest organisations are leaning into what we call the feedback economy,” she says.
“In an unprecedented era of global transparency, digital experience-sharing and desire to be heard, marketers can further enrich the dataset by shedding light on the ‘why’ behind consumer choices. This can only be done by asking real customers for their opinions and preferences that map back to true needs.