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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