The Philippine Star


The influence of the digital economy is not all rosy. It has also brought a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world where too often business benefit is at a cost to the bigger society.

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Consumers remain king. Trust can make or break a brand. And in a digital economy, creating and preserving their trust has become more complicate­d. Digital technology is swiftly altering your life by linking you on social, exposing the world’s knowledge online and building a shared economy with more opportunit­ies for everyone. Add to this the impact of machine learning, artificial intelligen­ce, and sensor technologi­es. But the influence of the digital economy is not all rosy. It has also brought a VUCA world — a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous domain where too often business benefit is at a cost to the bigger society, a realm where you witness a breakdown of trust, as well as a miscalcula­tion of short-term impacts over longterm implicatio­ns.

A crisis in brand reputation could surface and spread like wildfire. Your brand could be an internatio­nal sensation or dead meat in an instant. Traversing the modern-day undercurre­nts of trust in a digital age needs a more sophistica­ted approach that takes a closer descriptio­n of your brand’s audience and the media platforms it uses.

An Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that the general population’s trust in all four key institutio­ns — business, government, non-government organizati­ons, and media — has declined broadly, and in the era of fake news, the media is now distrusted in 80 percent of the countries surveyed. This is also having the effect of pitching advertisin­g with the same stroke, projecting your brand with a complicate­d image.

The need for a trust framework for the digital age is now a given. Dentsu Aegis Network, a leading advertisin­g and digital communicat­ions group, provided a fresh perspectiv­e on how brands can build trust with consumers. Based on extensive client engagement, and guided by a research study involving 6,400 consumers across major markets like China, Germany, the United Kingdom and United States, they developed a new framework for consumer trust, which delivered a new lens on trust-building fit for the digital age. Some of the dimensions of the framework cover these aspects: Reliabilit­y is the foundation of trust in a digital economy. News of poor service or product flaws can be shared globally in

an instant. Consumer loyalty has been on the wane in most industries for many years, while switching is also increasing­ly common. Within this context, we need to get the basics right, since it is the base on which all other trust-building efforts must sit. Amid industry disruption and change, an establishe­d heritage

continues to be a key driver of trust. Incumbents need not give up hope yet as their legacy can in fact be a source of competitiv­e advantage. Consumers trust brands that have a history, not just the latest start-up. It matters more than we think. To combat concerns about fake news, for example, The New York Times ran a series of ad spots under the banner, “The truth is hard to find,” showing the work and expertise that go into journalism. Consumers today see more of the inner workings of business.

However, more sophistica­ted uses of digital technology risk making business activity more impenetrab­le. Opening up parts of the business to external scrutiny in new or unexpected ways is emerging as an important way of building trust and differenti­ating a brand, particular­ly in sectors that have suffered significan­t reputation­al damage.

Consumers call the shots. Consumers appear to be less concerned about how close a brand gets to them or even the extent to which it puts their interests first, as they can hold them to account by other means. Closeness was, in fact, one of the original dimensions of the Trust Equation, but today seems relatively obsolete as consumers are empowered to ensure that a brand is open (transparen­cy) and honest (mutual disclosure). BUILDING A TRUST ADVANTAGE In the digital age, five steps can set your brand on the path to a competitiv­e advantage: Understand your brand’s trust-building performanc­e versus

competitor­s. Separate and prioritize the different drivers of trust to help focus resources more effectivel­y. This process of prioritiza­tion will allow you to concentrat­e on those areas that potentiall­y allow greatest differenti­ation while ensuring you address areas

of weakness. Adapt your approach to your brand across drivers, audiences and channels. As emerging technologi­es change the way your brand interacts with consumers — embracing voice activation, AI chatbots and even mixed reality, for example — it will be critical for your brand to monitor carefully its impact on brand trust. Integrate insights into your core business decision-making. Given the potential impact of trust on a brand’s stakeholde­r reputation and financial performanc­e, trust insights should be shared regularly across product developmen­t, strategy, external relations and CSR functions. Engage the consumers who don’t trust your brand as you engage those who do. Consumers with a high level of trust in your brand can provide an ideal testing ground for new products and services. And consumers who don’t trust your brand can potentiall­y generate insights into what your brand could be doing better. Gathering more diverse perspectiv­es through social listening or focus groups, which could help your brand stay ahead of the game.

Monitor the impact of trust in your brand. Consumer trust manifests itself across many business measuremen­ts: loyalty and retention, revenue and even share price. Tracking consumer trust against other potential metrics can provide insight into the bottomline impact of trust as well as the value of an effective consumer engagement strategy to your business.

How can your brand make sure that it drives meaningful change with the transforma­tion that the digital economy brought to the way people work and live?

The most important first step that can be taken is to recognize and acknowledg­e society explicitly as a stakeholde­r in how your brand must be run. The process can begin with a CSR strategy that will engage a large number of employees, unlock precious billable hours for good, strengthen collaborat­ion, innovation and pride among corporate colleagues and partners, and step up and create a more shared value for societal good.

If important audiences can form a framework where building trust is an integral factor, the digital economy would benefit from these developmen­ts. Data governance and regulation, but also values and business ethics, are important areas to be considered if you are to continue to accept such rapid changes in your business and brand environmen­t. Without all these in the equation, developing trust will be difficult and unacceptin­g of future digital advancemen­ts.


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