“The number-one way people today find out about things is they look for people they trust.”
“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough.”
That is the plight of fools and cowards.
You will slowly suffocate with every breath you take.
To trust is to live.”
Let me say, as a comment about the first quote I used, there are a shitload of people wandering aimlessly searching for someone and something to trust these days.
Turn on the television these days and all you hear about is ‘low trust scores’ with regard to presidential candidates. What the TV blabber jabbers neglect to tell you is that … well … finding a good trust score for anyone these days is next to impossible. We have a trust crisis with regard to everything <just check out how low the trust score doctors have for gods sake>.
And, yet, I see once again that MillwardBrown is still cranking out their massive TrustR research study <which is continuously pointing out these days that the relationship between “trust” and “any brand” is tenuous at best>.
And once again … I wanted to say ‘thank you Millward Brown’, or any large research organization, that issues research studies with summaries that says lots of nothing <nothing meaning … well … that they are non usable … unless someone tells you what is meaningful>.
And thank you big research for reminding me that trust is a topic fraught with peril in today’s world <for brands and for people>.
To the research itself.
Says a lot of “nothing” may be an overstatement.
Maybe it’s just the research company deciding to say nothing because … well … then they cannot be judged against anything.
But here is the real shame of most of these larger well done research studies. The research really does contain a boatload of gems if you have the time and guts to mine them.
With that said. Millward Brown issues a “TrustR” research study which shows the most trusted brands in the world.
Let me say.
Millward and Yankelovich <now FutureTrends> are companies who are awesome at conducting massive research studies that contain so much information no one knows what to do with them.
The good news for me, I admit, is that because of them I have been able to make a pretty good living grabbing these monoliths of hieroglyphics and translating them into useful tidbits of actionable insights <so for that I thank them>.
And this study is just one more example.
I will admit … Millward has evolved on their TrustR research study.
Initially it was all about trust. Trust was the ‘be all and end all’ … the holy grail for a brand <which is frankly kind of silly not just for brands but for anything>. They now recognize that … well … no one trusts anyone or anything anymore and therefore have come around in analyzing reliability & competency as the underpinnings to establishing a ‘trust relationship.’
We do have a trust crisis in general. In fact … I could argue that for a variety of reasons we people don’t trust anybody.
Their research study is a humdinger. The research study teases you with all this trust stuff. And I am not sure what they really want us to do with it. Some brand manager is going to run off and start saying “because they trust us, hey, let’s go endorse this and that and expand the brand” … and … well … there will go the trust.
Back in 2009 Millward Brown said this about Amazon:
“Amazon.com, the brand ranked first in the U.S. by TrustR, has achieved that status through exceptional service and providing its own recommendations to users. This combination has made Amazon the gold standard of trust and recommendation in the U.S.”
What the heck does Amazon do with that piece of information?
What the heck do other organizations do with that piece of information?
What the heck do I do with that piece of information?
I will tell you that Amazon is typically so good at their “other things you may like” recommendations that when they do get it wrong it is pretty funny. The following is an excerpt on this topic from a blog writer I love:
So. I am looking at these wonderful picture of this HUGE wine glass that holds an ENTIRE BOTTLE OF WINE and I’m scrolling through the page and I see the section where they try to get you to buy corresponding shit by being all, “customers who bought this item also bought…” and then listing things that would complement a big giant wine glass. Except instead of normal shit like a corkscrew or a wine rack or a one way do-not-pass-go ticket to AA, Amazon is all, “Customers who bought this item also bought Boston Legal: Season 3” and I’m like, “Wait, what?” and Amazon is all, “Customers who bought this item also bought the Omron Body Fat Monitor and Scale” and I’m thinking okay, I can maybe understand drinking an entire bottle/glass/bottle glass of wine while watching a season of fake legal drama on DVD, but if I’m going to drink an entire bottle of wine, and I’m going to do it regularly enough to justify purchasing a glass for this specific purchase, you can probably just assume that I never even weigh myself on a regular scale and therefore have zero need to know what my body fat percentage is after I’ve been able to consume an entire bottle of wine without even exerting the tiny amount of energy required to, you know, STAND UP AND REFILL A WINE GLASS.
But Amazon is a persistent and snarky little whore and was all, “Fine, customers who bought this item also bought Oxo Good Grips Locking Tongs with Nylon Heads. And a Neiko Super-Bright 9 LED Heavy-Duty Compact Aluminum Flashlight in Gunmetal. And the 5th edition of a book called Plain English for Lawyers.”
As you can see.
When they get it wrong it is pretty funny.
Back to the research.
All the research truly says is “hey <whatever company or brand listed> I trust you to do what you say you are going to do”.
That actually translates into “the basic cost of entry of any product or service asking to be purchased.”
What a sad world we are in that some brand can be rated high on some trust scale simply because they are doing what they are supposed to do <note: I will come back to this thought later when I talk about our trust crisis>.
I am relatively sure deep down maybe in page 222 or 471 there will be something that points out “hey, if you are really good at this then you must know <this>.”
Here is the deal.
Identifying that last little ‘this’ is the little thing you can take to the bank.
It is in understanding, or knowing, that little factoid which jumpstarts the true understanding of how to expand the company/brand’s respect <or trust> base. Of course, that assumes you want to expand at some point <because not everyone does>.
New products, innovations and alliances begin to become borne from that random page.
But big research companies don’t tell you that.
They don’t because, well, then they become accountable. They would rather gives you gobs and gobs of information and provide some broad sweeping conclusions <typically around five of them> and get out of town.
Big research has one sole purpose … to be beget more big research. And because of that it doesn’t pay them to hang their ass out over some edge making a clear recommendation <they leave that to people like me>
In this particular study they hide the real reason someone gets trusted.
I believe somewhere on page four of the research summary, after blabbing about trust or something, they randomly toss out:
“Trust is a state of deep belief and assurance. On its most basic level is about absolute reliability … gives us the stability and predictability we require for daily living.”
A functional attribute.
Reliability in doing what you say you are going to do.
Time after time.
That is where the trust comes from. I would have liked this study better if they had listed most trusted and then what they were most trusted <what people deemed they were most reliable at> for. And I admit. I am not sure I would be happy with “Toyota provides best value car” as an answer <especially if I was Toyota and paying money for the study>. But maybe that part comes if you pay them gobs of money to see the tabbed information.
All that said.
Millward claims that with this “TrustR” score these companies have this going for them:
- The brand customer bond is 10 times greater than the average brand customer bond.
- The brand is 7 times more likely to be purchased
- The brand shows a high likelihood of short term growth.
If I were on this list I would be tempted to not only get a big head I think I would head out a little early in the day and hit happy hour somewhere.
But I imagine my main point here is that if someone is not savvy enough in the company to realize that it is their competency & reliability which enables the “what they have going for them” benefits they may start focusing solely on ‘trust.’ Uhm. And that would be bad long term.
I sometimes seem to struggle when trying to articulate my aggravation with the typical large research study. It’s easy to point to the lack of a specific “here is what you should do” and the fact that many companies fund these studies to hide from having to make decisions on their own <just my opinion>. But I finally found a thought to capture my aggravation:
Data, information and learnings are distinctly different things.
Similar to the confusion between strategy, objective and tactics <and I believe I personally am only clear on tactics versus the other two> this whole data versus information versus learnings <and ultimately actions> is confusing. And I believe large research studies with the honorable intention of showing value for dollars and time invested “go for the show” and things start going “wibbly wobbly” <excellent phrase>.
After sitting through some of the most arid research presentations in the world I am not opposed to some “show” but it’s possible we have gone too far. We end up slipping into sound bites which are confused as learnings versus information … and then managers/leaders/business decision makers with little time <or possibly just looking for the quick answer> take the sound bite off into the sunset.
Let me end with some thoughts on trust in general.
Because I believe Trust is no longer a viable measure of … well … anything.
I am sure we people have always been cynical with regard to who and what we trust but I would suggest that the larger deeper recessions we have faced off & on since 2001 or so have steadily chipped away at trust.
You don’t have to look too far back to remember when banks, bankers and business leaders could do little wrong, were relative role models of success & leadership and often seen as the trusted sage advisors to troubleshooter societal issues. The larger effect of the financial crisis was to undermine … well … trust. And while one would think it would have just eroded financial leadership trust I would point out that when one bedrock component is shown to be made of sand … well … you start challenging all supposed bedrock.
It all marked the beginnings of a wider trust crisis.
But this is solvable. And it is not solvable by running around like a fucking chicken with its head cut off trying to answer “how do we get people to trust us.”
Reliability. Competency. Consistency.
While I noted much earlier that it is sad that people associate ‘trust’ with ‘doing what you said you would do’ <which kind of seems like the lowest of bars> … well … it is what it is. It is the world we currently live in.
I, personally, wouldn’t even look at trust scores. I imagine I wouldn’t because it would just be too fucking depressing. Even if you are honest, straight shooter and high integrity you are most likely going to be viewing a relatively cynical opinion of who and what you are. I would focus on competency, reliability & consistency scores.
Some research guru will most likely state they are all associated … but I would disagree.
In today’s world the gut response is ‘do not trust.’
And, yet, when mined for specifics and detail those exact same people will offer the head scratching input of high positive reliability & competency.
If I were a brand, a company or even a presidential candidate … I would take that advice and run with it … and would most likely be pretty successful in the end <even if I continue to be stuck with a crappy trust score>.
Two concluding thoughts.
Large research studies.
Data, information and learnings leading to real actions. I just don’t see it when I see these studies. More often the flashy sound bites. Somewhere there has to be a middle ground.
The fate of trust is in our own hands.
We will live a life of torment if we do not trust enough.