Bill Bishop's statement on trust reflects how we are living in an unprecedented time of liminality. Social, cultural, and environmental awareness pulls in one direction, while profit-driven and ideological forces pull in the other. What has been in existence is being replaced with something new and yet not known. Depending on your particular set of beliefs, the future is either promising or terrifying.
It’s all laden with mistrust, accelerated by technology and social media. It means we have choices to make, not only as individuals but as institutions, companies, and brands. Choices about how we begin the process of rebuilding trust. At FakeNot™, we’re focusing on trust as a central brand platform because we think that any society based on trust is a healthy one, and it is by understanding and building trust that we can successfully navigate this liminal space. Traditional brand thinking will continue to decline in effectiveness.
As a response to the environment over the last five years, there’s a lot of discussion and focus for brands on being purpose-driven, authentic, or more human. Agencies have repositioned, books have been written, formulas created and indexes calculated, all in the name of delivering easy, simplified answers or frameworks to a very complex and intricate topic. And while that’s all a positive direction, it is not enough. All of these elements - purpose, authenticity, humanness - all are parts of a more extensive system of trust.
Trust has historically been examined in a formulaic way - as an outcome or result that is dependent on a linear equation. We think of trust differently, based on a strong theoretical underpinning that supports not approaching trust as a formula or equation with an output, but rather as a holistic cultural system. It's an important distinction because equations are bordered and based on historical data. Systems are constantly re-balancing based on the present moment, unconcerned with the past or future. And what is particularly nice about all systems, is they can be analyzed, understood, and managed.
In 1967, the Interpersonal Measurement of Trust was established by psychologist Julian B. Rotter. This measurement has held up well over the years and has been re-adopted by other researchers using similar measures, even if the verbiage changed. Rotter’s (1967) theories lead to a proposed model by Mayer, Davis, and Schoorman (1995) which examines trust between a trustee and a trustor, based on perceived:
- Ability: Skills and competence provided by the trustee
- Integrity: that the trustee inhabits values and morals that the trustor accepts.
- Benevolence: trustee wants to do good for the trustor (interaction is not ego driven)
Said another way, it’s about our competency, our authenticity, and our intention. We feel this is the best representation of the cultural system of trust, and it’s the basis of our work.
The first two areas, ability and integrity establish what is called “functional trust.” This level of trust is the most basic level and straightforward - an expectation of how another party is likely to act or behave. Historically, this is where most brands focused strategy, but in today’s business environment, it’s not enough. In this era of “fake,” to BUILD trust, to build a sustainable foundation for growth, trust must progress along a continuum toward what is called “emotional trust.”
Benevolence (Intention) is what moves a brand along this trust continuum, in critical “sliding door moments“ that require a brand to examine every aspect of their existence: the product; its distribution; interaction with others; and the experience, consistently reinforcing that they have their customers’ best interest at heart.
At FakeNot™, we are working to change the way brands are thinking, expanding from the traditional way of thinking about brand positioning to one of cultural positioning. Next, we’re going to dive deeper into functional versus emotional trust and share a simple matrix for mapping your brand’s place in the trust system. Be sure to follow us on FaceBook (@FakeNotArena) and Twitter (@FakeNotArena) or sign up to join our community when we’re ready to launch (www.fakenot.com).