Building brand authenticity in a world of distrust

Building brand authenticity in a world of distrust

The Future Laboratory hosted a discussion with Sean Pillot de Chenecey at the Corinthia Hotel London tonight to mark the launch of his book The Post-Truth Business.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is famously reported as saying that once you’ve established trust with a customer everything else is easy.

However a lack of trust defines much of modern life including our relationships with brands, media, organisations and governments.

Digital communication has become a war zone. Even the language that we’ve adopted to describe modern corporate communication has military overtones such as disintermediation, rebuttal, hyper targeting and media weaponisation.

“Democracy should be based on everyone having access to the same information. Hyper targeting and millions of variations of Facebook ads during the EU Referendum and US Election broke that premise,” said Pillot de Chenecey.

“We’re only starting to understand the impact of technology platforms such as Google and Facebook on society. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the US Congress in April showed politicians are seemingly powerless to hold them to account.”

The Internet has commoditised everything but brand

Democracy isn’t the only casualty of the internet. It has commoditised almost all aspects of product marketing including product, price, proposition and service. Brand is often the only point of differentiation that’s left.

Modern branding is about stripping an organisation back to its core. Authenticity has become an overused word in modern marketing but it’s a critical value for a modern brand seeking to build trust with its stakeholders.

“Brands that invite attention, open up their supply chains, and invite customers to become part of their story create the basis for trust in a relationship,” said Pillot de Chenecey.

“Radical transparency is a clear point of difference that is rising up both the consumer and corporate agenda. Privacy is set to become a critical for brands if it isn’t already.”

Reporting on trust and the value of relationships

Corporate social responsibility has shifted from window dressing or stunt led campaigns to a means of an organisation holding itself to account to its stakeholders. That’s a good thing.

The challenge between short financial performance and building long term trust remains. It’s an irony of modern corporate communications that investment in reputation will always get cut short term in favour of maximising shareholder value.

The CIPR and Social Market Foundation suggest that organisations should report on their relationships with their stakeholders and communities alongside their shareholder value using an integrated reporting format.

Like all good business books The Post-Truth Business concludes with a manifesto. Pillot de Chenecey suggests that brands builds trust through authenticity, transparency, respecting privacy, and demonstrating empathy.

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