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Trust and the future: How purpose connects brands to consumers

Trust and the future: How purpose connects brands to consumers

By Justin Sutton
VP, Brand Leadership

Forgive me while I relive Steven Spielberg’s 2002 hit, Minority Report, for a minute—the part that involves a futuristic Washington, D.C., efficiently run with self-driving cars, retina scan identification technology, and hyper-tailored advertising bombarding commuters at every turn. 

Remember how Tom Cruise’s protagonist character, John Anderton, received timely messages from what were presumably his most frequently used and most trusted brands: Lexus, Guinness, American Express, Bulgari—creepy idea, huh? Maybe. In 2002, the year 2054 certainly felt like a distant reality. But how far removed from that scenario are we today?

With our personal and behavioral data collected at an increasingly rapid pace every day, machine-learning predicting our behaviors with greater precision despite fewer inputs, and technology designed to integrate into our lives more seamlessly than ever, this could very well be the golden age of trust between brands and consumers.

Yet, despite all our advances in data and technology, trust in brands and the way our data is being used has never been lower. According to eMarketer, 2019 is the first year on record with digital ad spending surpassing traditional ad spending. The result? Social media brands, the very media channels with steady 30%+ annual revenue growth rates over the past five years, have become some of the least trusted companies in the world.

2016 showed us all we needed to know about how powerful the nefarious use of our personal data can be to affect the world in massive ways. Cambridge Analytica, the now notorious data analytics firm in London, admitted to placing thousands of Facebook ads spreading misinformation to influence the U.S. Presidential election and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. Following those decisions, Brittany Kaiser, former business development director for Cambridge Analytica, explained to the British Parliament that the targeting capability they deployed was considered so powerful by the British Government, that, for years, it had been categorized as an actual weapon!

Just this month, Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign took a bold move to challenge Facebook’s advertising policies. The campaign placed a “fake fake ad” on the platform, claiming Mark Zuckerberg was officially working for the Trump campaign, and calling on Facebook to adhere to a higher standard for the ads placed on their platform.

Consumers have arrived at their level of distrust for advertising and the brands behind them honestly.

Today’s business leaders must rebuild the trust of their consumers in audacious new ways—there’s never been a more important time for brands to establish a clearly defined purpose, demonstrate that purpose on a consistent basis, and embrace bold transparency to rebuild trust with today’s consumers.

Larry Fink, CEO of global investment firm BlackRock, is one of the people leading the charge. In his 2019 letter to investors, Fink laid out a renewed emphasis on purpose for his corporation. For BlackRock, purpose isn’t a fleeting, feel-good mission statement, but rather a strategy to build trust with their stakeholders and ultimately improve the health of their business. As Fink says, “Purpose is not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a company’s fundamental reason for being – what it does every day to create value for its stakeholders. Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.”

Brands built for the future leverage data and technology to their full potential, connecting with consumers in meaningful modern ways, they must focus on establishing a foundational layer of trust. Doing so is no longer a generous action to check a box and make shareholders feel better about their company. In today’s world of misinformation and distrust, brand purpose is a sound business strategy resonating in a big way with the modern world. Likewise, as consumers continue to secure more control over their personal data, they can slowly begin to open themselves up to the brands they trust and value most.


Barkley US

Feb 21, 2020

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Consumer Products, Media, More, Retail

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Consumer Products, Finance, More, Purpose, Restaurant, Retail, Sustainability
Consumer Products, COVID-19, Media, Millennial, The Useful Brand
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