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Why brands must use emotions, not euphemisms, to build trust

By Stephanie Genin | global vice president enterprise marketing



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January 8, 2020 | 5 min read

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Brands are having to face up to the fact that consumer trust has been broken. But all is not lost. Over the last five years, we’ve seen the likes of Amazon reform customer expectations in terms of logistics, inventory and service, but more recently there’s been an added layer to what customers have come to expect. A clear trend has emerged in which people are choosing to buy from companies that share their moral, social and political beliefs.

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In 2020 more companies will use social media to take a stance on the issues their customers and employees care about

Forrester calls them “values-based-consumers.”

While this trend is growing in popularity, it’s also materializing within employment. Employees are the thread that holds organizations together – and they bring their personal consumer values to the workplace. Indeed, 67% of employees say they would refuse to work for an organization that did not share their values or provide the opportunity to address societal problems.

The opportunity to build trust

Over the next year, some brands will be making a big play on values. As a result of this shift in consumer behavior, more companies will use social media to take a stance on the issues their customers and employees care about. The brands that succeed in doing so will be the ones that build genuine connections with both parties, and therefore learn how to best align with their values. The key will be making sure that emotion is at the forefront of all communication. For public channels, that means aiming for content that has a broad reach, but still has an emotional appeal. Then, in private, it will require building deeper relationships with a blend of automation and one-on-one human connection.

One of the ways for brands to communicate in an effective and authentic way is through employee advocacy. It’s not only a great way to align the values of employees and the company, but it’s also an effective tool to talk to customers. In fact, 53% of all global consumers see employees as the most credible sources for learning about organisations.

Being authentic

So, is it time for every brand to choose a flag and fly it? We know that consumer expectations are changing, and that companies must consider their stance on societal issues. But with seemingly more brands facing a backlash for their efforts (think Pepsi and Gillette), it can be a daunting prospect for marketers.

Most of the time, when brands come under fire for taking a stance on a societal issue, it’s because it comes across as inauthentic. And while consumers and employees want to see companies take a stance on things they care about, they are also very cynical. They won’t hesitate to call out brands that get it wrong.

Most mistakes are made when organizations rush to jump on something topical, without clearly showing how it aligns with the brand mission. It’s quickly shown to be inauthentic, and therefore does more harm than good. Therefore, companies need to tread carefully in deciding what stance to take, and which issues to get behind.

In fact, rather than taking a hard stance on one side of a contentious issue, brands can still generate trust by promoting positivity. For example, skincare brand Dove has been pioneering its global self-esteem campaign for the last fifteen years. This has included commissioning independent research on the topic that has been used to build social hashtag campaigns, including ‘#RealBeauty’, ‘#NoLikesNeeded’, and ‘#SpeakBeautiful’. All of which have encouraged users to show off their inner beauty.

Dove uses emotion to infuse positivity among its workforce and customers.

Leading from the top

In the age of the ‘celebrity CEO’, having strong leadership is also important when it comes to building trust with both employees and customers. Especially considering that 65% of consumers say their purchasing decisions are influenced by the words, values, and actions of a company’s leader. Having a trustworthy business figurehead can help to effectively deliver the messages a brand is trying to land with its target demographic. The C-suite must therefore develop programs that address societal concerns through honest and sincere communication and genuine, purpose-driven behaviors.

Ultimately, to meet both consumers and employee’s growing expectations, brands need to have a clear strategy when it comes to engaging in societal issues. While social media is a great channel to show a brand’s values, building authenticity through strong leadership and employee advocacy will give companies the advantage when it comes to rebuilding trust with consumers.

To learn more about the top trends for social going into 2020, download Hootsuite’s full social trends report.

To hear more predictions for 2020, attend our Predictions breakfast event on 21 Jan, register here.

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