The Business of Trust
The era that we live in is characterized by an enormous trust deficit. The term and its associated feeling have become more common
in the last few years than in the several decades that preceded it. While the deficit of trust, manifested as a feeling of insecurity, has existed ever since life existed, it became more predominant after communities were formed. Communities connect beings (animal or human) and depending on one's own real and perceived weaknesses and strengths, they become the basis of bonds of security or insecurity.
In earlier times, the reasons
for trust defi cit were visible and common
enough to be easily understood. Food,
mate, shelter, and physical safety, typically
characterized the four deep-rooted territorial
instincts, (which exist to this day as seen in
market-share wars, or in battles for cubiclespace
at offices) and comprised most reasons
for aggression. Over time, these four basic
needs were replaced by more intricate social
needs in which the competition spread to a
variety of other things - looks, wealth, property,
or something as intangible as social
praise. In current times, trust has become far
more complex and difficult to decipher, and
trust deficit exists for several reasons, known
The dependency on trust is increasing exponentially
with every connection we make,
social or business, and the need to have
a more robust and scientific way of understanding
trust is also becoming imperative.
Composites of Brand Trust
In the case of Brand Trust, Non-Threatening Ambience can be reinforced by displaying cultural neutrality, absence of bias and, an overall concern for safety. One of the important aspects for a brand to create a trust-conducive environment also depends on the ease of approachability to the brand. Also, if the brand helps in creating a comforting atmosphere for engagement with its audience, and demonstrates a high awareness of stakeholder's perceptions, it will have a high index for this Composite of Non-Threatening Ambience.
Shared Interests are symbolic of common cultural and social backgrounds and therefore lead to an expectation of better mutual understanding. Shared Interests also helps in higher transactional predictability, eventually leading to a better Brand TrustTM environment. Liking similar things, in a manner, implies similarity of thought processes and also shows a long-term compatibility of the individuals. The Shared Interests Composite also showcases a congruence of values, beliefs and thoughts.
To create a trust-conducive environment, the Display of Empathy is even more important than the earlier two Composites discussed. Empathy is a complex sequence, which shows and reinforces an emotional connect between target and the brand. Colloquially speaking, it is the ability of the 30 THE BRAND TRUST REPORTTM brand to step outside of itself and see the world through the eyes of its audience. The advantage of this ability is that it allows the brand to quickly perceive new opportunities with the audiences. Empathy also gives the ability to take risks on unexplored fronts with greater confi dence, and develops a 'gutfeel' for the right decisions.
Though the term sincerity has many interpretations in normal usage, it has a stricter application when it comes to Brand TrustTM. Display of Sincerity for a brand has both social and personal implications, and consequently, 'outer' and 'inner' manifestations. A brand which displays inner sincerity shows high ethical and moral values, self-regulated governance, and integrity. Brands which display outer sincerity do so by showcasing the highest degree of transparency and by commanding genuine respect from their audiences.
Social responsibility is handled by some brands as charity, by some as brand building exercises, but everyone understands its direct benefi ts without a doubt. Corporate Altruism gets demonstrated when the brand acts beyond its own narrow interest-areas, and works for a larger, socially beneficial cause. In the context of Brand TrustTM, Corporate Altruism is a very important Composite that organically builds a high trust-quotient for the Trustee. Yet, Corporate Altruism has a significant time lag from its action to its result, and therefore requires patience for results to show. Brands must engage socially without looking for swift results that they are so accustomed to. When the brand engages in self-less action, showcases compassion and a generous attitude, and is socially conscious and active, it gains a part of Brand
TrustTM that is highly resistant to erosion. An often neglected but crucial aspect of Corporate Altruism is also the brand's universal association with teaching and guiding.
The third important Composite of Brand TrustTM is displayed Enthusiasm. While many appreciate the value of an enthusiastic response, few know it to be an important constituent of Brand TrustTM. There is a direct correlation between the success of a transaction and enthusiasm, probably because enthusiasm is an indication of greater mutual interest in the outcome. Since enthusiasm implies a greater involvement of the Trustee, leading to a commensurate increase in the chances of success, it holds an important position in building Brand TrustTM. Displayed Enthusiasm also demonstrates the Trustee's self-assurance and shows a greater degree of Trustee confidence in a positive outcome. The Composite of Enthusiasm reaches out far beyond our casual understanding and is best felt when the brand relationship is charged with vibrancy. However, a higher degree of outcome motivation and a proactive approach add to a stronger Brand TrustTM bond as well.
Competence and perception of Competence
are completely different from each
other. While the former is the ability to
execute successful outcomes, the latter is
only a perception or judgment based on
physical and non-physical cues. Perception of Competence directly results
from several physical and non-physical aspects.
The physical aspects of this important
Composite are expertise and experience
(both of which are very different aspects), and
credentials (a proven history of competence).
The non-physical aspects of this Composite
includes the brand's sincerity, and the muchdiscussed
aspect of knowledge.
Beauty is not just skin deep as this Composite would suggest, but a lot of Brand TrustTM is dependent on the 'packaging'. We often tend to predict the contents based on the Outward Appearance, and hence this becomes an important determinant in the Trustor's perception.
Commanding Respect is the trait of a leader and it is not easy to decipher how or why one accomplishes it. However, in the Brand TrustTM context, this Composite takes into consideration several tangible aspects like accountability, high skill, leadership, values and personality of the brand.
While the courage to accept failures is an important primary component of this Composite, the brand's responsibility towards stakeholders and an acute awareness of its duties add to the strength of Accepting Responsibility. Brands which show a high score in this Composite have two more components - professional poise and balance, and standing by its decisions in the face of adversity.