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Marketing Trust World Economic Forum

This year’s World Economic Forum focused on ‘rebuilding trust’. Marketers, take note

By Kevin Ruiz, Vice President of Strategy, Measurement & Innovation



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January 29, 2024 | 8 min read

This year’s World Economic Forum wrapped a couple of weeks ago in Davos, Switzerland. Here, Kevin Ruiz of Spiro offers an agency-eye view of its themes of trust, purpose, and collaboration.

A snowy bird's eye view of Davos, Switzerland

This year's World Economic Forum was all about trust. What does that mean for marketers? / Evangeline Shaw via Unsplash

This year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) had a theme of “rebuilding trust”. That theme captures both the essence of many challenges currently facing our world and the opportunities available to leaders across different industries. As US national security advisor Jake Sullivan said recently: “We’re in the early years of a new era… We have the capacity to shape what that looks like.”

In a world marked by geopolitical divisions and misinformation, brands face record-low levels of customer satisfaction. Connection and trust are imperative for brand-side marketers wanting to drive brand loyalty, resiliency, and advocacy. Here are five key takeaways from Davos to help.

1. Deepen trust with purpose

This year’s WEF agenda highlighted the importance of purpose-driven organizations in shaping societal and environmental change. Organizations across other industries can work to integrate purpose to strengthen audience relationships. Research shows that consumers are four times more likely to purchase from (and six times more likely to protect from public criticism) brands with a strong purpose.

Marketers should work to align broader goals, and push to transcend traditional business objectives. Effectively communicating a brand’s purpose, rather than just focusing on profits, works to deepen trust; 72% of consumers say that relevant content delivered in a timely and appropriate way boosts their trust.

2. Gain trust through transparency

The WEF could take a leaf from its own book. One demonstration of the need to build trust is the frequent criticisms the summit attracts for its exclusive, invite-only feel. Global leaders and institutions alike need to work to regain the trust of constituents and customers.

Clear, honest storytelling can go a long way to building trust in an era rife with reactionary content and misinformation. Brand-side marketers should think carefully about how to achieve transparent and authentic communications, both to enhance brand credibility and to align with expectations that businesses should act responsibly and ethically.

3. Act on feedback

The need to act on feedback has gained greater significance against growing public sentiment about global leaders being out of touch. A case in point, the WEF summit receives almost as much criticism for its lack of results as for its poor transparency.

Such disapproval underscores a disconnect between high-level discussions and tangible, real-world impacts; Qualtrics has reported that while 80% of chief executives believe they deliver superior experiences, only 8% of customers agree. Even a modest increase in customer loyalty can lead to substantial profit growth; research by Bain shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25%.

It is essential to actively seek and respond to customer feedback; implementing changes that address concerns can help trust and loyalty in an increasingly skeptical market. Acknowledging and acting on customer feedback is a powerful way for brands to show that they actively listen to (and care about) their customers’ experiences.

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4. Widen trust via pan-industry partnerships

The Global Cooperation Barometer, published by the WEF and McKinsey, highlights the value of cooperative partnerships, saying “Those that thoughtfully and constructively manage relationships bounce back better from challenges and achieve objectives.”

Brands can extend their impact by embracing collaborative efforts to address challenges that sit realistically within their industry’s sphere of influence. These pan-industrial partnerships can also work to address broader societal and environmental challenges. In an era when consumers’ trust in institutions continues to waver, working collaboratively can enhance your brand’s reputation, helping align it with growing consumer preference for companies that prioritize collective wellbeing over individual gains.

5. Emphasize humanity in tech

The AI revolution is a transformative force – this was compared at Davos to the steam engine for its potential to revolutionize business.

IBM’s chief executive Arvind Krishna highlighted the growing importance of critical thinking at a time when generative AI takes on more cognitive tasks. For marketers, this means leveraging AI not just for automation and efficiency, but also using it as a catalyst for human creativity and strategic insight.

The key challenge is integrating AI in ways that complement human skills and emotional intelligence. This requires a deep understanding of AI’s capabilities and limitations, particularly recognizing that critical thinking is a human ability to understand nuances and complexities currently beyond AI’s ability. The goal should be to create a beneficial, human-first, relationship with AI that enhances the human elements essential in compelling storytelling and empathetic connections.

By maintaining a human touch, brands can build and maintain trust with consumers and workforces in a new, increasingly digital age.

Marketing Trust World Economic Forum

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