How we can restore consumer trust in brands

The loss of consumer trust is a huge threat to brands. As our economy undergoes digital transformation in all industries, brands are getting swept up in a massive shift in trust. According to the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer, the US saw a drastic decrease in trust in the last 12 months for both businesses and the media, a 10- and five-point drop respectively from 2017, putting brand trust at an all-time low. How can we reverse this dangerous trend?

As brands implement GDPR, they face a critical choice. One option is to check the compliance box and continue business as usual. A more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding path, is to engage in meaningful conversations with consumers in an open and transparent way. In time, those conversations restore consumer trust, and as trust grows, brands benefit.

Remember that the data you collect belongs to the consumer. Every marketer must ask the following question: Who gave you permission to access the data you’re using? The answer should be: The consumer. Instead of gathering data completely behind the scenes on consumers, many brands are beginning to find powerful ways to gauge consumer interest and intent through simple, structured ways of asking.

Be upfront about data collection and use. Consumers aren’t experts on data collection and use; judging from recent Congressional testimony, the legislators aren’t either. Brands need to address the knowledge gap by being upfront about data collection and use and by doubling down on freely volunteered data and ensuring they are clear about how that data is going to be used.

Give value to get value. Consumer data is valuable, and brands should be prepared to return value to consumers who freely provide their data. This could come in the form of discounts or exclusive offers, or it could simply come from presenting consumers with more relevant and impactful messaging based on the data they share. The key is to treat the consumer as a valued partner whose input is heard and acknowledged through meaningful action.

Build trust at scale. According to a recent eMarketer report, privacy concerns have driven advertisers to shift budgets to private marketplaces in order to work more closely with trusted publishing partners. While this desire to maintain control and transparency is laudable, and conveys a sincere desire to protect consumer data, it likely isn’t the long-term answer. We need to be able to apply the same level of data protection to the broader, programmatic digital ecosystem to truly push our industry forward.

Recognize your responsibility, but also be realistic about your impact. Every stakeholder in our industry has a responsibility to restore trust by being a better data steward. But as brands engage consumers around this issue, they need to be realistic. Small brands won’t move the needle alone, but collectively their actions can push big players to do the right thing. At the other end of the spectrum, the largest advertisers as well as the tech giants like Google and Facebook need to recognize that their actions, good or bad, set the standards for others to follow, and they must put their best foot forward if we want to secure a safer, healthier and more trusting future for brands and consumers alike. 

Tod Loofbourrow is the CEO of ViralGains. Previously, Tod served as President of iRobot, founded and served as Chairman and CEO of Authoria (Peoplefluent), and served as CEO of Foundation Technologies.

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