The Edelman Trust Barometer recorded that 80% of people worldwide do not trust businesses. 80%! But trust still matters. Statistics that display the trustworthiness of a particular business will motivate people to buy from and recommend that business. So, for many companies, the “bottom line” is the only motivating factor to pursue trust in the brand. The average consumer is aware of this fact so the 80% mistrust is understandable. If trust is simply a “marketing ploy” then it defeats the purpose!
When there's mistrust the brand image is marred. What if the “bottom line” wasn’t the only reason to do business? What if, in addition to assuming a big pie in the marketshare, a business’s core purpose was to provide solutions, create employment, and make the world a little better?
It takes an authentic character to conduct business ethically. Character is the foundation of trust. To build any relationship, especially in business, there has to be trust. But where does trust come from? It comes from morals and ethics—the very core of character.
Character is the foundation stone that all activities are built upon. Good foundation—good business practices, bad foundation—bad practices. This is quite elementary. Character trickles down from the boardroom, into marketing activities, the products you sell, the platforms you promote your products on, and how you treat your employees. At issue is the corporate conscience—how ethical you are as a team member, as an executive, as the chief-in-command. Every person in the organization is a walking brand. A well-established brand character is instrumental in strengthening trust in the brand. Trust, therefore, has to be earned over and over in order to maintain the brand's authenticity.
In the VW's case, they have super intelligence to design cheat software and were successful in keeping it concealed for years. But deception doesn't last forever. One wonders, what else are they hiding?
Reputation is built upon and can easily crumble with just one scandal. The foundation of a character-centred business, therefore, must be consistent in these three practices:
1. Deliver on your word – Be vigilant and live out your brand promise.
2. Build a moral reputation – Be honest, transparent and ethical within and outside the walls of your business. It must be reinforced daily.
3. Enforce transparency in communication – Be genuine and consistent in establishing effective communication. It is a cornerstone of any business. With genuine communication, trust in the brand will last and be valued.
Trustworthiness is what customers are really looking for. Trust was what people used to have in Volkswagen. How can they restore trust when there seems to be a lack of principle in being ethical?
A lesson from the VW case: What truly is of most importance in the long run – cheat to outsmart the system or be principled to earn trust and loyalty?