“Houston… We’ve had a problem” – James Lovell
Trust is lacking where it matters – between people, companies & both. The complete corrosion of consumer confidence is making buyers cynical with each passing day. Can we blame them? Wal-Mart didn’t exactly handle the PR nightmare in China when one of its security guards killed a suspected shoplifter, the January 2008 Société Générale trading loss incident killed investor confidence & UPL should have mentioned early that the family of Saad Khan asked them not to disclose the incident, prior to it becoming public knowledge (which by the way, did not affect their sales the slightest). Corporate scandals worldwide are having a lasting impact in the way people view brands & it should have a lasting impact on the way companies name and position their brands too.
Companies need to be reminded that a brand is a Promise; one that will help the user feel/look/smell better or generate/save money. H&S guarantees no more dandruff, Lifebuoy assures the removal of germs and Lipton Green tea will keep you lighter even after heavy intake of food. The foundation of these brand promises is the customers trust in the company’s ability to deliver. Meeting them half way is the key to selling the brand, regardless on how great you insist it is.
I think marketer’s today need to study what exactly is the brands promise or insight and strategize to improve or maintain it. When everyone involved with a brand understands its promise, they will understand how to regain customer trust and gain credibility provided that the brand experience remains consistent.
As explained in the NYT Best-Seller “Freakonomics”, we are living in the digital age, the age of transparency; where customers have the ability to verify claims, compare prices and find information on a company’s abundance or lack of credibility. Bad news will reach social media before you can arrange a press conference to control the news. It is for this very reason, that choosing to aggressively pitch a brands quality & reliability is not the best move. Consumers want reassurance; not many company’s give it, but if you are willing to make the effort, it will live on in their hearts (and wallets).
Babar Javed is Owner & Managing Director of Mission Centenarian, a health & fitness company founded in 2007, which comprises of a network of personal trainers in Karachi. He was most recently the chief marketing officer at Élan Guides & has worked with GlaxoSmithKline & UBL Fund Managers as well. Currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Marketing from SZABIST, his key interests lie in social media, brand activation & advertising