According to David Horsager, C-suite leadership expert and author of The Trust Edge, ‘you can’t be a great leader without trust’. At BrandMatters we see an important link between the techniques required to build strong leaders and the techniques required to build strong brands.
So why is trust so important? Trusted brands have committed customers who are not only willing to recommend them to friends and family, but display a willingness to pay higher prices: a ‘trust’ premium. At BrandMatters we often describe strong brands as having customers who are disinterested in alternatives and trust in their preferred brand is what drives that disinterest. You might have cutting edge products or an enormous advertising budget but without trust you will continue to struggle to build a loyal customer base. Additionally, building trust internally will help you to foster innovation, drive commitment; and will give investors the confidence to provide additional capital.
Trust can only be built over time and is not something you can slot into your value proposition and expect to turn up as increased sales the following week. In his article on Forbes.com, Horsager identified the eight C’s that can help drive trust:
So how can organisations apply the the eight C’s of building a great leader to help build trust in their brand?
Customers are looking for simple solutions and clear stories. Removing complexity is a must-do for brands. Make sure your customer value proposition clearly communicates who you are; what you stand for; and how you are different. This is essentially your brand’s positioning. Don’t confuse people: give them confidence by making your brand easier to understand. Internally, a clearly expressed employee value proposition will give your employees the confidence to deliver on your brand’s promise and therefore become more productive and more effective.
Examples of brands that display clarity: Peter Alexander, Bunnings, Subway
Demonstrating your brand’s compassion is not about donating to charities and working with the underprivileged – it is about how you treat your customers, your employees and also your competitors. If you can consistently demonstrate genuine respect, over time people will come to believe in your sincerity.
Examples of brands that display compassion: NRMA Roadside Assistance, Lonely Planet.
Brands that demonstrate character don’t duck, weave and hide: they are proactive and do what needs to be done. When they do something wrong they accept it and take steps to rectify the situation. If your organisation makes the tough decisions when it needs to, people will recognise it and you will be rewarded.
Examples of brands that display character: Herron, Sherrin,
Take a step back and have a look at your organisation from the outside in. It’s not all about you and your brand – it’s how you act within your broader operating environment that will influence trust in your brand. Do you support the local community? What do you do to show that you value your employees? Do you demonstrate that you care about the environment? People notice these things – provided they are aware of them. A sincerely motivated corporate social responsibility program supported by a strong communications program will demonstrate to your customers that your brand is worthy of their trust.
Examples of brands that display a contribution: Bendigo Bank, The Body Shop
Having expertise and being well-qualified is definitely important for assuring your customers you have the skills and experience to exceed their expectations. However Horsager points out that skill alone is not enough: to build trust and be successful, brands need to stay on top of trends and explore new opportunities. Customers appreciate brands with a can-do attitude. It’s also about listening to your customers, keeping abreast of your competitors and learning from others in your industry. Leading brands are always ahead of the curve.
Examples of brands that display their competence: McDonalds, Google
Your ability to connect with your customers is critical in today’s world of new technology and social media. As Horsager points out, ‘trust is about relationships, and relationships are best built by establishing a genuine connection’. It’s about more than just having a Facebook page – It’s your commitment in listening to and engaging with your audience. Not only will being connected to your audience help build their trust and confidence, but it is also an important way to evaluate your customer’s experience and expectations and improve your offer.
Examples of brands that display their connection: Kiva, WordPress, Starbucks, VB, Amazon, Caterpillar, M-TV, Kleenex
Live up to your promise. With its famous tagline ‘whatever it takes’ FedEx is a strong example of a company with a brand positioning founded on commitment. Commitment is your ability to stay aligned to your positioning and your promise and link all your business activities and actions back to your core reason for being. Often, passion is the driver of commitment.
Examples of brands that display their commitment: Nike, Disney, FedEx
One of the first rules of building strong brands is consistency. Consistency needs to be applied to all levels of communication in your organisation. Being consistent in your messages will bring clarity, demonstrate reliability and make your brand memorable. A complete and detailed set of brand guidelines will help achieve visual consistency across your organisation. But it’s not all about design, your tone of voice, or the way you run a TV campaign every September. Successful brands have a unique and compelling value proposition which they consistently deliver against again and again.
Examples of brands that display their consistency: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Macquarie Bank, Mercedes Benz
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None of these elements can be bought, borrowed or created in a few weeks. Trust is a result of a long term investment and commitment. It is slow to grow and quick to destroy. But by applying these eight values against all interactions with your customers and employees over time you will earn the trust and loyalty of all your brand’s stakeholders – and that will contribute to improving your bottom line.