Displaying items by tag: brand trust

With more than $200 million dollars raised to aid the Australian bushfire disaster by everyone from celebrities and organisations to local fundraisers, it is truly incredible how people, in times of crisis, come together to support and help one another.

Generous donations aside, we have also seen a number of brands respond to the disaster by using their core products and service offering to help those affected by the ongoing fires – brands acting through their core brand purpose.

As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, there is an increasing request, need, drive and sometimes even demand for companies to take action and have a voice around important current affairs, may they be social or political, or in this case, environmental. It is predicted that this will continue to be increasingly the case throughout the 2020’s.

A multitude of brands are responding to the current crisis:

  • Banks: Having finished off last decade with quite a negative reputation generated from the Banking Royal Commission, the Australian financial services sector have started on the right foot by being quick to roll out a natural disaster program for customers in communities impacted by the bushfire and drought emergencies.

The Australian Bankers Association announced a suite of fee-and-loan-repayment changes to help customers get through the crisis. Member banks include the big four banks and a host of other lenders, including Macquarie, AMP, Rabobank, Suncorp, ING, Bank of Queensland and ME Bank.

Some, such as NAB, have gone further and set up a $4 million fund to help customers and staff displaced by the bushfires. NAB customers who have lost homes, including affected business owners and farmers, this bushfire season can access $2000 grants, to help cover costs such as temporary accommodation, food and clothing. Westpac and other banks have provided similar offerings.

Telstra has also offered a number of other relief packages to aid those in need, including: Satellite Cells on Wheels to boost coverage where is needed, assistance packages, free payphones in affected areas, pre-paid handsets, recharge vouchers, access to broadband in evacuation centres, improvements to Triple Zero (000) and assistance with family and friends of those affected, who currently find themselves outside of the country and are wanting to check up on their loved ones.

  • Coles: have given $3 million in gift cards to over 6000 rural fire brigades across Australia.
  • Woolworths Group: almost $1.3 million raised for the Salvation Army in the months to Christmas, since surpassing $3 million including donations from its own customers.
  • Milky Lane and McDonalds: offering free burgers and meals to all fire-fighters.
  • Arnotts, Freddo, Mars Australia and Coca Cola: have all made generous pledges whilst also providing and distributing, through organisations such as Foodbank Australia, their products to all those affected by the fires. Coca-Cola Australia is honouring Australia’s firefighters with the creation of a limited-edition Share a Coke with the Firies.
  • Sports: both Tennis Australia and Cricket Australia have used their upcoming and current events to donate and raise money for the, with many players pledging to donate money according to the number of aces or wickets they receive during their respective events.
  • The Arts: from comedians and knitters, sewers and crafters, to jewellery makers, designers, ceramic artists to fundraising gigs across the country – the art scene have using their skills to raise and donate money where possible. The line-up for bushfire fundraiser concert is a smorgasbord of Australian talent as well as some huge international guests.
  • Architects: a new volunteer organisation called Architects Assist, comprised of over 130 architecture studios, has formed to help bushfire victims rebuild, offering pro-bono design and planning assistance to people whose houses, businesses and community centres have burned down.

These great acts of kindness will help bring some relief to those who have been affected by the fires. However, it is important for brands to ensure the way they respond in times of crisis, or when taking any stance, is not seen as an opportunistic move to increase sales in the long run. In order to be successful in doing so, brands must ensure the following:

  • Authenticity

Consumers can see right through brands that don’t respond authentically or with integrity, which in turn can convert to distrust towards the brand. What could be perceived as a kind gesture or widely applauded stance to a social crisis, if perceived as hollow or opportunistic, can turn ugly very fast.

For instance, P&G’s brand, Gillette, received a lot of backlash when they released their 2019 campaign “The best Men Can Be’ against toxic masculinity. Consumers saw it as an attempt to capitalise on the #MeToo movement, when this brand had little history in having this stance in the past. Some could say that the brand was known for disfavouring women at times, by adding premium prices to their women lines. The decorrelation between their brand purpose and values with the pro-social message lead to the campaign’s overall fail.  

  • Timing

Acting fast, especially in times of crisis, is crucial and in some way is also linked to authenticity. Brands need to lead when it comes to taking a social stance and not appear to be jumping onto a bandwagon. Gillette’s campaign came the #MeToo movement had gathered pace. Being too late can be perceived as being inauthentic, and therefore can cause a negative image in consumer’s minds.

  • Empathy

In an age in which understanding your customers and building relationships with them has become key to standing out in crowded marketplaces, empathy takes on a new level of priority. Empathy allows brands to build an emotional connection with their audience, to engage the people who use their products in real conversations and to inspire connection. A lack of empathy can in turn lead to…you guessed it, inauthenticity and distrust.

Empathy and authenticity must also be perceived by not only the brand and its communications strategy, but also from its people, otherwise a disconnect between both of these can end disastrously as well.

Consumers are looking more and more at brands to take action. The recent climate change protests and the ongoing fires, have been good examples of how companies across Australia have done so, creating deeper and stronger connections with their consumers than what advertising and campaigns have ever done in the past.

For brands wanting to respond to the bushfire crisis, empathy is delivered not just in donations of money or goods (however gratefully received), but in how the products and services they deliver can contribute to the recovery effort. The question brands need to ask is “what can we do to improve the conditions of those caught in the fires? If they need one things from us, what is that one thing?”

Whether that one thing is free burgers, scoring aces, mortgage repayment suspensions…brands are able to contribute authentically from within their own products and services to support the recovery effort.

If brands focus on doing what they do best, in an authentic, trustworthy way – it is more likely to be perceived as part of their core values rather than an opportunity for promotion. It has been truly heart-warming and inspiring to see so many brands put their hand up and offer help in their own unique ways.

Across our culture, communities and public life, Australia is living through a period of deteriorating trust. In some of our most venerable financial institutions, trust has been almost irreparably broken; trust in our political system has diminished through caustic public discourse; and trust in individuals once held in high esteem, is shattered.

However, the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2019 found that in this environment, individuals are now looking to their employers1 to fill this trust deficit. The findings suggest that this is the opportune time for Australian businesses to understand this need and take advantage of their employees’ desire and need for trust. But where do organisations start on their trust journey?

 

Building authenticity

Great brands, and in turn great companies, start with people. Employees that buy into an organisation’s purpose and have the motivation to deliver on its brand promise with every interaction, drive success and synchronicity throughout an organisation. Today’s workforce is globalised and more mobile than ever with the mounting demand of flexible working options. Human capital is one of the biggest fixed costs companies face, making sourcing talent and retention of workers an important consideration in their bid for scale and growth.

So how do companies face up to this challenge of acquiring and retaining the right employees who fit in with their ethos and will champion their vision? The answer lies in an authentic and strong creation of trust, a positive two-way benefit transfer between employer and employee, as clarified and crystallised in an Employee Value Proposition (EVP)2.

An EVP summarises the wider vision of a business and defines the employee’s role in delivering against that vision. In its simplest form, an EVP defines where a business is going, what it requires from its employees to get there and what it will provide to them in return.

 

Attracting the best

With fierce competition in the market place for the best people, and employees looking for organisations they can trust, rely on, and feel proud to work for, employers need to be perceived as more trustworthy than their competitors. A strong EVP that communicates trust will define what an organisation offers over its competitors and clearly outline the benefits which would attract prospective talent. Building long term, substantial and authentic trust can bring depth to a business beyond commercial outcomes.

Evaluating and identifying

If an organisation’s brand promise is to be truly delivered, businesses need employees to align to and buy in to their culture, vision and values. A strong EVP not only focusses on attracting talent, but also the right talent. A clearly defined EVP supports the qualifying of applicants by being crystal clear on values and expectations. It builds a criterion on which applicants can analyse whether they align to a company’s culture, vision and values, and gives HR teams a measure to easily evaluate each applicant against an agreed standard.

 

Retaining their people

So why is trust between an employer and employee so critical? Long gone are the days of employee loyalty determined by length of tenure. Today’s employees are agile, flexible careerists, creating their own portfolio of roles, driven exclusively by their own choices. Employees are looking to businesses to help them reach their potential, and with so many employers to choose from, retaining the best and brightest talent can be a major hurdle for organisations. A strong EVP, focused on retention, empowers and aligns staff, making them feel in control, loyal and valued. It makes those within the organisation feel like they are moving forward in their career paths with an employer they can trust. Employees have made a proactive choice in their employer and an EVP that reinforces trust can do wonders for productivity and morale.  

 

But where to start?

Establishing authenticity is critical in setting the baseline for EVP development. As we all know, actions speak far louder than words. Engaging employees across all levels, lengths of tenure, departments and functions is essential in understanding: who you are, what you stand for, why employees are drawn to your organisation and the unique benefits your organisation will deliver. By analysing, researching and understanding current employee perceptions of their organisation, employers can clarify and fine tune their messaging to achieve true employee (and employer) satisfaction. Ultimately, the best employers can clarify and hone their actions and their messaging and always measure current employee satisfaction against the true north of the EVP.

 

Delivering on trust

Everything communicates. Organisations have the power to transform the very human day-to-day interactions between themselves and their employees. When organisations have mastered an EVP and trust has become part of a company’s culture, they become known as valuing their employees, and prospective talent is drawn to them.  Their existing employees are engaged and committed and believe that what they are doing, matters.

In short, a truly great company can be defined by the extent of trust built within their culture. You can feel this permeating through every level of an organisation, shaping the way employees interact and giving them a unified purpose. Trust is in decline and where we look for trust is rapidly changing.  Organisations need to question their ongoing role in how trust can be delivered. The research is in and suggests employers have an increasing role and responsibility in rebuilding trust. For organisations who have an EVP as their guidance system, their rewards will be significant and ongoing.

 

Footnotes:

1 https://brandmatters.com.au/whatmatters-blog/are-employers-taking-over-from-government-as-the-new-leaders-in-australia

2 https://brandmatters.com.au/blog/employee-branding-the-employee-value-proposition?highlight=WyJldnAiLCJldnAncyJd

 

Additional sources and references:

 Edelman Trust Barometer

https://www.edelman.com/trust-barometer

http://brandmatters.com.au/zStatic/downloads/2019_Edelman_Trust_Barometer_TOP_10_Australia.pdf

 

Brand trust

https://brandmatters.com.au/whatmatters-blog/brand-strategy-blog/rebuilding-trust-in-the-fs-industry-and-its-players-it-starts-and-ends-with-culture-2

https://brandmatters.com.au/whatmatters-blog/are-employers-taking-over-from-government-as-the-new-leaders-in-australia

https://brandmatters.com.au/access-brand-leaders

 

Employee branding and Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

https://brandmatters.com.au/branding-services/employer-branding

https://brandmatters.com.au/blog/winning-the-war-for-talent-the-employee-value-proposition

Trust is one of the most valuable assets of any organisation. In the B2B context trust and culture – the values, mission and habits of an organisation – are interdependent. When an organisation has a strong and positive culture and an authentic offer to the market, trust and brand advocacy are built over time. This enables long term bonds between employees, and between employees and customers, to develop. When a brand’s culture, which is brought to life on a daily basis, doesn’t meet the expectations of trust placed upon it, an organisation’s reputation can quickly deteriorate under this scrutiny.

We are living in swiftly evolving times where trust across the spectrum is being eroded. From the Banking Royal Commission and ongoing political instability to fears related to job security and low wage growth rates, it should come as no surprise that the prevailing mood for Australians is currently one of pessimism about the future.

 

The proof? From perception to reality

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been charting major shifts in general perceptions of trust over the last 19 years on a global scale. With data drawn from 33,000 respondents in 27 markets, the Barometer is regarded as a reputable source of information to understand the shifting value and importance placed on trust. The currency of this report is only more potent given our current environment where trust has been found to be so low.

 

Shifting sentiments: key findings

The significant finding in the most recent Barometer was that the general adult population across developed nations is largely pessimistic about the future. There is a general sentiment that their lives won’t improve five years from now. Whilst it was measured that only 1 in 5 people globally think that society is working for them, 75% of these people have faith in their employer. The pessimistic figure is more pronounced in Australia with only 1 in 3 people in the general population optimistic about what the future holds for them.

Key findings from Australia demonstrate an overall negative view, but with insights into where opportunities to build trust may be:

Australia – Key Findings:

  • Only 32% of the general population think life will improve for them in 5 years’ time, with just over half convinced that the system isn’t supporting them.
  • Australian women in the general population have less trust (45%) in the system than men (51%).
  • The top 3 national fears are cyber security (68%), dependency on foreign goods (65%) and a decrease in “the Australian way of life” (65%).
  • Trust in media (40%) and government (42%) is lower compared with business (52%) and NGOs (56%).
  • Trust in “My Employer” is greater than in all other major institutions (including government, media and NGOs), and for Australia is 2% higher again compared with the global rate (75%).
  • Almost 80% of Australians want CEOs to take the lead on change as opposed to the government.

 

Employers: A source of optimism in a pessimistic world

 “People have low confidence that societal institutions will help them navigate a turbulent world, so they are turning to a critical relationship: their employer.”

Richard Edelman, President and CEO

These key Australian findings suggest that this is the opportune moment for Australian businesses to take advantage of the desire and need for trust. Australian businesses and their leaders have the opportunity at this juncture to include trust as a strategic lever, built into their organisational framework and authentically delivered to their audiences. 

This is not just about the delivery of products and services. Australian organisations now take the lead on many societal issues including diversity and inclusion, parity, gender equality, and are key voices and influencers on government policy. After all, who remembers the marriage equality debate, and the leading positions taken by organisations as diverse as the AFL and Qantas?

The findings from the Barometer demonstrate clearly that trust is conducive to many positive and beneficial employee behaviours including advocacy (80%), loyalty (71%), engagement (69%) and commitment (87%). In fact, these insights clearly show over half of the population has an expectation that their chosen employment will offer an inclusive culture (75%), which enables them to actively contribute to and progress in their career (79%). Furthermore, 65% of employees additionally expect to make a valuable contribution to society through their work.

Employees are actively placing authority in their employers to create positive cultures with a vision for the future that is beyond profit generation. Are CEOs able to lead the change a generally disillusioned public is waiting for?

 

(Re)building trust in a disillusioned world

But where do brands start on their trust journey? In the context of trust deficit, how does a brand locate it’s starting position in the context of a shifting market and benchmark itself against agile competitors?

The Barometer highlights the value in measuring trust over time, and measurement provides organisations and institutions a better understanding of the business, societal and political context in which they are operating.

Brand measurement – the tracking of audience perceptions, sentiments, motivations and purchasing behaviour over time – drives an overall view of brand health. And most critically, measurement benchmarks then tracks the levels of trust audiences place in the brand.

The value of these insights cannot be underestimated in driving positive, incremental adjustments in business and brand strategy to further take advantage of building trust and advocacy with audiences over time.

 

Building cultures that attract the brilliant and the best

Earning trust is essential not just from external audiences but also from employees and future employees. Creating an employer brand the demonstrates, imbues and empowers trust is critical in attracting and retaining the best people in an organisation.

And that starts from the top-down. What value does an organisation bring to its people? Brands that develop a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) provide the reason for why people should want to work there. EVPs are built from the inside out and sustained by motivated and committed employees who understand an organisation’s vision, values and behaviours and the role they play in delivering to these.

An effective EVP is a two-way benefit stream of trust, the employer fulfilling its promise kept to the employee, and the employee positively contributing to the organisational vision. Over time, through authentic and reciprocal engagement, trust is a key tool for attracting and retaining the brilliant and the best.

 

Conclusion

The recent Edelman Trust Barometer clearly demonstrates the erosion of trust as a global phenomenon, a deficit that creates an opportunity for organisations to positively and authentically build their brands and take the societal lead. The opportune moment is now for organisations to have the conversation: are we ready to be the new leaders in Australia?

 

Sources and references:

Edelman Trust Barometer

2019 Edelman Trust Barometer

2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Top 10 Australian Insights

2019 Trust Barometer Australia Topline Results

 

Brand trust

Rebuilding trust in the FS industry and its players - it all starts and ends with culture

 

Brand tracking and measurement

BrandMatters brand research

Brand tracking and why it is important

What marketers can learn from NPS

 

Employee branding and Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

BrandMatters employer branding

Winning the war for talent: the employee value proposition

Since the Royal Commission Final Report and throughout the hearings Commissioner Hayne has repeatedly come back to two connected areas: remuneration and culture. The inwardly focused remuneration schemes that prioritised sales and profit over customer benefit have caused a great many of the sector’s systematic problems and created a ‘win at all costs’ culture. So what can they do now?

 We see four key factors that summarise the journey to the situation we now find ourselves in:

  • A consistent market and media focus on individual industry player market performance and shareholder returns.
  • A highly protected market with little competition and almost insurmountable barriers to entry.
  • A deeply honed and sophisticated sales infrastructure, with short term incentives layered right through the organisation.
  • An under-resourced and slightly intimidated regulator – ill-equipped or unwilling to detect or handle the sheer scale of potential malfeasance that has occurred over the decades.

 

In case you need some evidence that things need to change 

  • As reported in Mumbrella 22 January 2019, Brand Finance annual report highlights how Australia’s big four banks suffered a $1.1 billion drop in brand value, led by ANZ.
  • ClearView estimated it had breached the anti-hawking provisions, somewhere between 300,000 and 303,000 times in just over three years.
  • $6 billion of commissions paid to financial advisers with respect to life insurance over a five-year period.
  • In the past six months since the Banking Royal Commission commenced, consumer satisfaction ratings with banks has dropped from 81.2% to 78%, the lowest satisfaction rating banks have seen in more than seven years.

 

Some suggestions as to how the financial services industry can respond

First and foremost, there must be a united front. What’s needed is a true and authentic commitment from the entire industry to work towards rebuilding consumer trust. A collective action and a collective promise made, shared and then kept. Admittedly much easier said, than done.

The industry would benefit from an entirely new approach, a new norm to be created where customer centricity is the key focus – in the knowledge that from truly satisfied customers profit will prevail, and shareholder returns will come. A new focus on serving and improving the lives of customers will prove they can be profitable and trustworthy at the same time.

Again, very idealistic, but that is how dramatic the shift needs to be.  An institution that can put its customers first, can have a broader purpose, can nurture and create a new and positive culture. One that focusses on delivering for customers and that isn’t all about internal remuneration.

The regulator and the Government also has a role to play, through ongoing relaxation around regulation and licensing allowing greater levels of competition in the industry. This will force the major players to be fairer and more responsive to their customers’ needs. We are already seeing new entrants and disruptors joining the market including neo and fintech banks, like Volt and 86400.

The regulator also needs greater resourcing and financial resourcing, so it can stand up to the fiscal might that exists in some of Australia’s wealthiest companies. The regulator could also lead a new shared vision, code of practice and industry wide charter to create shared value for a much wider group of consumers, investors, and the broader community. It could also lead an entire industry wide – as well as individual focus – around remuneration structures and incentive schemes. This needs to fundamentally consider the link between quantitative sales targets and compensation, to minimise misconduct and help individuals ensure that they prioritise the meeting of customer’s needs.

 

Some suggestions and guidance around culture

A key to success is recognising that organisational culture is constantly evolving. Embedding culture, reinforcing the right behaviours and aligning conduct and risk management practices need to be an ongoing and everyday practice within everyday business. We need to ensure over time that complacency does not creep back in when this moves from the headlines.

As always, leadership matters. Senior leadership must embed conduct and culture messages and expectations from the top down, and from middle management through to customer facing staff. Measures must be in place around how all levels of employees are trained, promoted, supported and measured.

 

Finally, at an individual brand level – it all comes down to purpose

Financial services brand research highlights the need to start with the biggest piece in the complex world of brand – vision. A reason to exist, a reason to get up out of bed, to serve customers. A vision that is compelling and drives a positive internal culture, doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C. A focus on culture that serves and encourages the appropriate behaviours through every strata of the organisation – including middle management and especially client facing staff. For financial services brands that means creating a vision that creates buy in from all employees to say ‘hey, we are here for a broader purpose than simply profit’ – we must be here to do more than just create value for ourselves and for our shareholders.

Is the industry up for this level of change? Well, the jury is still out on this. However, there are already positive signs. The disposing of wealth and insurance businesses and other potential conflicts of interest, together with a renewed focus on their core functions should see the capacity to drive new and better outcomes for customers. This includes being far more sensitive to customers human needs.

In summary, this is a complex and daunting task for the industry and the individual brands, including Westpac, Nab, AMP and Commonwealth Bank. Simultaneously they have to re-build trust, along with managing new digital entrants, evolving customer needs, market expectations and overall competitive pressures.

For financial services brands, it is time to listen, learn and act. With significant rewards for customers, for brands and shareholders. In terms of a make or break moment for the industry, it feels like this is the moment to take positive action. If not now, when?