Excerpts from my interview with Rory Sutherland, chairman, Ogilvy and Mather

On shareholders, consumers and employees

‘It’s all very well to say that the shareholder is  the most important group in a company (sic) but that’s not really true when employees might work for 20 years, customers may buy for 40 years and shareholders might hold onto the stock for a couple of days as a flipping exercise for short-term gain.’

On why trust takes a backseat in businesses today

‘Most businesses run through autistic measures. Anything that is numerical triumphs over anything that is less measurable, less quantifiable and long term, such as trust. You could argue that shareholder value movement and the stranglehold of accountants over businesses have made them less trustworthy. Almost all businesses are obsessed with the short-term and this makes it hard to build trust. ‘

‘There is a great phrase that trust grows at the speed of a coconut tree and falls at the speed of a coconut.”

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW


In our cynical world today it’s easy to think that to trust means to be foolish and to distrust, smart? Experiments conducted in Japan proved just the opposite.

Toshio Yamagishi from the University of Japan created a series of experiments to examine the question: Are people who trust dumb?  Through thousands of questions asked to students and several experiments conducted with them, he found that far from being an irrational thing to do, trust is in fact a skill honed by the highly intelligent.

Making finely balanced human judgements based on feelings and emotions including who, why and when to trust are life skills essential to the successful human being. When you take upon yourself the risk to trust someone, you get better and better at evaluating what signals to listen to and what to discard in making your own decisions.

Trusting is an innate human tendency but it is also a skill. Trust needs to be practised, with risks being taken and new information and experiences gained in order to hone your trust senses.

Bottom line – If you don’t trust, you don’t learn to trust and you become worse at it.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW


Excerpts from my interview with Nigel Gilbert – CMO of Virgin Media and former CMO Lloyds Banking Group

“All institutions, but especially financial services ignore a lack of trust at their peril. One of the positive outcomes that I hope from the recent difficult period is a diminishment of the arrogance that businesses have often treated their customers and clients with in the past. Arrogance is a deeply untrustworthy and unattractive trait. You should always be humble in the face of your customer. They have a choice and you shouldn’t simply assume their loyalty. ”

“They must look into their own hearts and really see what they are doing. There is often a dichotomy between what companies say they are about and what they actually do – their actions and their words are different. Organisations need to be more forensic about their activities, the impact of their actions and how they are perceived.”

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW


Survey shows those with profit and power fail at trust

The picture of who we trust is relatively stable. Over the 16 years between 1993 and 2009 Ipsos MORI in its ‘Trust in Doctor: Annual Survey of public trust in professions (2009)’ measured a 22% decrease in the trust held in business leaders and a 10% decline in the trust held in politicians. Even the trust ascribed to the ordinary man or woman in the street saw a 16% fall.

Generally the ‘altruistic’ professions, such as doctors, nurses or teachers are more trusted than commercial or ‘power driven’ professions, such as business people or politicians. When those being trusted are not out to gain something for themselves, such as profit or power, we find it much easier to trust.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW



There is huge power in having control over your brand’s narrative and its evolution. To watch Steve Jobs delivering an Apple presentation about their latest product is to witness a brand completely in control of the development and evolution of their narrative.

Don’t fall into the short-sighted trap of focusing on one campaign at a time, especially when the pressure is to acquire new customers or drive volume. Any new communication must be seen within the context of past and future promises.

The best brands:

  • Understand and build on previous messages.
  • Commit to and reinforce key benefits.
  • Bring to life their mission, motivations and the culture through their actual achievements.

These are the characteristics that help brands move forward and develop consistent space in people’s minds.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW



It could well be one of the most vital ingredients of our existence; a foundation of the economy, our businesses, and our brands, perhaps even society itself.  Trust is an easy thing to feel but a hard thing to decode.

In this fast moving era of the 24×7 news cycle, with the eruption of information availability and our changing social landscape – trust is one factor that has not only become more complex but has also failed entirely on several occasions with major consequences.

From Lehman brothers to BP to Toyota to British politicians’ expenses to global warming science and even the global financial meltdown, brands and their consumers have suffered from serious, catastrophic collapses in trust.

In spite of these transformed markets and a more cynical consumer all is not lost. Over the next few weeks and months we will be exploring the landscape of trust and how you can build and rebuild trust in your business, brand or organisation.

Through a series of blog posts and excerpts from my new book Why Should Anyone Buy from You? we will create insights around strategy, brands, marketing and communication that will help you create trust in brands and drive the growth of your businesses.

If you want to know about what we believe can be the twenty-first century mission for marketing – the re-humanization of business then keep reading.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW


We are so much smarter than the average business or marketer gives us credit for. We are also so much smarter than a brand or segmentation analysis.

People know.

They know where a business “is” and whether it should be trusted. Whilst wehave rightly been shocked by the revelations about the Murdoch empire most people knew something was up and that journalists weren’t trustworthy. That’s why less than 1 in 10 of us trusts journalists.

The journey to becoming a trusted brand and business is a journey of many steps. Given today’s hyper-connected and hyper-informed consumer, where all information is but a click away and sharing that information another, businesses and marketers need to realise that there is nowhere to hide.

If you have poor practises and poor processes, a bad product, treat your employees (whether at home or outsourced) badly then you will be found out. So if you want to be trusted then you need to change those things that you aren’t proud of. And time and time again people forgive and credit businesses that show leadership.

Take McDonalds. Now I’m not holding MaccyDs up as a paragon of virtue but when the consumer shone the light of transparency on them over the past couple of decades they were found wanting. A poor environmental record, a poor attitude to their employees and a product that was bad for you. Whilst attitude of Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 movie Super Size Me wasn’t the average view, consumers could smell something wasn’t right and they started making different choices.

The initial reaction of this uber-corporation was to focus on the simple and surface. People thought the food was unhealthy especially for kids therefore we suddenly saw salads and fruit-bags on the menu. None of this worked. Sales fell and fell because no one goes to a McDonalds for a salad. It was dissonant with the brand.

But McDonalds to their credit realised that there was nowhere to hide and that they needed to start to make the journey to trusted status by doing the hard work. Today, whilst they still have issues to deal with, they are a much better business and organisation for it. Food has been reformulated to be lower calorie, lower in salt and sugar. Coffee is rain-forest certified and fish is sustainable. Beef comes from British and Irish farms. Employees now have a range of options to train for qualifications. Stores have been revamped to create a much improved experience.

These real and difficult changes are now being celebrated in their advertising. This is the right way round. Make the core changes to become a trusted business and then shout about it. We want businesses and brands that do better and take their responsibilities seriously. We don’t want businesses that make knee-jerk reactions and make excuses.

Selling the News of the World and pulling out of the BskyB bid were desperate attempts by the Murdochs to stem the blood loss and they haven’t worked. What will work is a genuine and authentic recognition that there are serious issues at the heart of the business and then a commitment to starting the decade of work they will need to do to take the opportunity to create a better business. This should start with governance and control and with the Murdoch family stepping aside and allowing a new team to take the reins.

When we see real, meaningful change in a business we credit it with our custom – whilst News International’s value is decreasing by billions, McDonald’s first quarter global results this year showed profit up 11% year on year and revenues up 9% to £3.8bn.

Thanks for reading



Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

What we have witnessed over the past few days with the closure of the News Of The World and the fast creep of the flames to other newspapers is proof that this aphorism is true.

And let’s be clear despite the best efforts of the Murdochs’ to stem the blood loss what we are witnessing is a fundamental reshaping of the balance of power in the British media. The deplorable behaviour that we now understand to have been commonplace will do the same for journalism as the expenses scandal did for politics.  And I, for one, welcome the cleansing fire.

Trust in the media, despite what journalists, especially from the BBC, would have us believe is far from rock solid. Journalists bump along at the bottom of the pack with politicians (just behind business leaders lest we become too high and mighty).

But this lack of trust is not a good thing for society. Who can we count on when those whose higher purpose is to call the powerful to account are themselves seen as frauds? We need a strong and vibrant media but one that is called to account itself and can be trusted.

The reality is that there has been a deep lack of morality at the heart of the media for decades as the consumerist, self-obsessed, media and advertising created matrix has been created. We have all lost our way. From all of us that placate our own insecurities with celebrity gossip, to those that have no boundaries in their manufacturing of this “product”, the politicians too gutless to lance the boil, and the brands and advertisers that pay for it all. There were many responsible for creating the ethical vacuum that allowed such shameless activities to be seen as acceptable.

The inevitable changes to self-regulation, ethical standards and practice, the sackings and arrests, the calls for greater transparency all have the potential to be good as we vaguely attempt to rebuild the lost social capital in our society. The battle for a respected, valuable, social capital creating media is an important one. We are living through The Gap – where information outstrips our ability to change – and it is painful. But the opportunity, if we can take it through hard work, perseverance and looking at ourselves and our culpability, could be a better, healthier and more open society.

I look forward to it. From fire comes new growth.

If you are interested in trust generally and in society, and in the roles the media, business and brands play in building it, then why not consider pre-ordering my book WHY SHOULD ANYONE BUY FROM YOU?

Please remember to leave a comment and get the debate going.


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Imagine you owned a coffee-shop with a fantastic old wood-panelled ceiling which is by far the most noteworthy feature of your shop. Everything else is pretty generic but this is truly magnificent. If it was your shop I reckon you would know about the stories behind the ceiling – who made it, for who and the rich history of your coffee-shop.You’d show pride as you tell the stories and engage your customers as they stare up and marvel at its intricacies.

Yesterday in Starbucks on Vigo Street in London I walked in and couldn’t believe what I saw above my head. I asked the barista about it with wide-eyed wonder – the response a sullen, “I don’t know about that.”

What Starbucks failed to do yesterday was create local pride and a sense of ownership in their team. This makes the experience feel much more like McDonalds – all standards and no personality – than a truly great local coffee shop which I think is what they are trying to aspire to as a brand. A quick Google search shows that this ceiling has been the subject of a few consumer conversations – see a much better picture on Flickr.

In most cases brands are planned and developed centrally but they are always experienced locally. Bridging that gap is the challenge and that’s less to do with standards (which are no doubt important) and more to do with the passion of the people delivering. Celebrating the distinctive and local is a great way to engage around authentic experiences rather than what is in the brand manual.

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Innocent, the European smoothie brand now partly owned by Coca-Cola, have created a tie-up with Peace Day which was 21st September. This is a great example of how a brand can drive a connection with the market through a social good.

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