PEOPLE KNOW

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

Justin

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Justin Basini

Entrepreneur, author of Why Should Anyone Buy From YOU?, blogger (www.basini.com), business, brand and marketing thinker and do-er, husband and dad

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