Friday, March 04, 2016

The Elements of Trust



Brands exist to meet the needs, desires, opportunities, and vulnerabilities that exist in the world, the fulfillment of which results in human gratification. However, the habitat that brands and businesses exist in is visibly and rapidly transforming. The strategy of navigating the market turf is not easy even in normal circumstances, and when the environment is unstructured and ambiguous, brands often struggle to come to grips with a unifying strategy. The need for a universal approach, which provides options for the diverse stages of a brand’s lifecycle, situations ranging from combative markets to crises, one that works just as well for startups and mature organizations, is perhaps a greater imperative than any other intellectual input needed by the world of brands today.

However, to work universally, such a universal ‘String Theory’ of brand strategy must be founded in the elemental ingredients of the brand so that it can address the diverse range of circumstances that the brand encounters. Trust is the fundamental substrate on which all exchanges take place and require different types of ‘exchange’ to nourish them, much as humans require air, water, and food. Trust is the force that binds brands to their ecosystem, helping shape its identity and building relationships with all known and unknown stakeholders. Without building, maintaining, or refurbishing trust constantly, brands will invariably weaken, wither, or fade. Trust erosion in brands occurs as naturally as the death of cells in living things. Some brands face this trust erosion noticeably fast, and the more diligent ones among them seek innovative and dramatic solutions, often reaching out to trust as their answer. In other brands, the trust attrition is slower, frequently unnoticeable due to the numerous other eco-changes that distract the brand custodians. In the best of such cases, brands tend to use the tried-and-tested strategy that reeks of paradigm blindness, and in the worst of cases they employ loosely-put-together plans that play pretend.

Brands are as precious to the world as they are to the custodians. They are, after all, a tangible manifestation of ideas. Custodians must constantly observe the trust their brands command. They must know, understand and analyze the trust quotient of their brand to be able to enhance it with their customers, employees, investors, and all those others who impact the brand’s life. A platform needs to be created to generate different thought processes on trust from industry leaders. This will help initiate a long-awaited conversation around trust.

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