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Lucia Di Stazio
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6 April 2017

Brands (and institutions) ain’t wot they used to be!

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Trust is in increasingly short supply. Our trust in brands, in CEOs and directors, in Government, politicians, police and the media, and the establishment in general is plummeting.

Is it any wonder?

In the last 10 years or so we’ve had Blair’s dodgy dossier, cover-ups in Rotherham, Hillsborough and the NHS; phone-tapping and expenses scandals. Greed in banking and finance – stealing as the media calls it. Banks fixing the LIBOR interest rate; Rolls-Royce (Rolls-Royce!) apologising after a £671m bribery settlement; a human rights lawyer struck off for paying middlemen to fabricate stories about British soldiers killing and torturing Iraqis. Then billionaire Sir Philip Green – Sir Shifty as the Daily Mail dubs him - had to be persuaded by a select committee to pay £363m to plug a £571m pensions’ hole in the company he sold for £1. Plus VW’s diesel car emissions test cheating, and UK housebuilders’ quality and workmanship scandals. Now it’s show time with President Trump’s fake news.

Who’d trust anyone? But we do, although trust is leaking fast.

For nearly 20 years Edelman, an international communications group, has measured the public’s trust in business, government and the media, surveying more than 33,000 people in 28 countries every year.

This year’s survey recorded the largest ever drop of trust in business, government, the media, and non-governmental organisations.

There was a 12 point drop in the credibility of CEOs, in all 28 countries. Only 37% of people say they trust them, although they’re more trusted than government leaders (29%).

Forty-three percent trust the media, down from 48% last year.

Brands have a lot of influencing and brand recovery to do. Yet, most brand ‘content’ is having little or no effect on business results or people’s lives, says Havas’ latest Meaningful Brands’ study. Havas, a global advertising & PR agency, found a correlation between brands that create effective content and business results, but 60% of the content from the world’s leading 1,500 brands is ‘just clutter’.

Sixty percent of the 375,000 people questioned in 33 countries, said brands’ content is ‘poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver’. According to Havas, most brands do a good job on functional benefits but fail to move their brand up the benefit ladder to explain its impact on customers’ lives. Globally, consumers would not care if 74% of brands disappeared. That figure is 94% in the UK!

Trust is what brands were originally created to build. A couple of hundred years ago, when food and drink were commodities and manufacturers were adulterating the contents to increase their margins, many customers fell ill and deaths were common. So manufacturers put their name or brand on their products as a guarantee of quality.

One reason the Chinese love brands is because they’ve gone through the same scandals as we did 200 years ago. In 2014 milk and infant formula, for example, were adulterated with melamine and China reported an estimated 300,000 victims. Six infants died from kidney stones and other kidney damage, and an estimated 54,000 babies were hospitalised.

This crisis in trust is also a branding crisis.

Are you keeping track of the health of your brand? Are you measuring brand strength, engagement and the level of trust in your brand?

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