Archives for posts with tag: trust


We wait to win the lottery. The screenplay that will make you a Hollywood star. The blog post that will lead to a book deal and speaking engagement. The woman of your dreams. The dream job. The end of the world.

We tend to waste a lot of time waiting.

Companies wait for the new product to turn everything around. The new marketing campaign will change everything.

It doesn’t work that way anymore.

Brands succeed one person at a time. You make one person happy, they will tell others. Rinse and repeat. If you disappoint your customers, they will leave one at a time. Drip, drip, drip.

One at a time is not as cool as the big bang. But it’s the way the world works now.

Social platforms are “one at a time tools”.

You show up every day. You tweet. You blog. You give to the world. Over time, you build a body of work, leading to trust.

Many marketers want to use these tools for breakthrough efforts. Let’s get a million followers and then convert them into a sale. They don’t understand that you have to build trust, one at a time, to earn the right to make a sale. You need to build that trust over time, tweet by tweet, post by post, interaction by interaction, one person at a time. Trying to build trust right before you want to make the sale is a foolish undertaking.

Build a foundation of trust now before you really need it.


Marketing and selling professional services is all about building relationships in which you are considered a trusted advisor. You demonstrate your expertise in ways that build credibility and trust.


If we all agree on that, why do I see all these service overviews, capability presentations, client lists and process overviews?

Sure, you might check off some boxes but it doesn’t help you achieve the ultimate goal: Establish yourself as a thought leader and trusted advisor.

Imagine two agencies:

Agency A develops a list of prospects for their services, creates a capabilities brochure and website, and sends out an email to their prospects, to be followed by a call few days later.

Agency B uses the same prospect list but they invest money in researching either the vertical they’re targeting, the regional area they want to work in or the service expertise area they want to target. And they share the insights gathered by research with their prospects.

Now, which company would you like to meet with?

I get bored just thinking about Agency A.

Agency A provides no value and doesn’t differentiate itself. (“We are another agency that can do the same thing as all the other agencies. Choose us.”)

Agency B provides something of value and showcases their expertise without being annoying. The prospect might have an agency they work with but Agency B has a good chance to stand out and get some business going. They don’t want to talk about themselves, they want to talk business, starting a real relationship.

So, forget about marketing your services, your processes, your capabilities. Spend your time and budget on creating value. It delivers better ROI, establishes trust and is a good start to a long, fruitful relationship.


The iPhone knows its location and stores that information in a file. Apple denied this claim, called users confused and the problem a bug.

Sony admitted last week that hackers had obtained Play Station Network user names, addresses, email addresses, birth dates, passwords and IDs.

Oh, and a few days later, Sony admitted to a second security breach that may have resulted in the theft of personal information of 24.6 million Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) customers. This includes 12,700 non-U.S. credit or debit card numbers and 10,700 direct debt records.

This is not about bashing Sony and/or Apple. There are bigger issues at hand here.

The core issue is informed consent, which is a by-product of basic respect and empathy for customers. Most companies are lacking these important principles. 30 free days added to their subscription by Sony is just not good enough. Customers should be offered free credit reports and subscriptions to identity theft protection services. A few friends of mine had to deal with identity theft, and I can assure you 30 days of free service wouldn’t make up for the time they had to waste cleaning up their record.

Consumers will put up with a lot from brands they like and do business with so long as they are told what the brands wants to do (in non-marketing and non-technical speak) and they are given the opportunity to choose.

Apple didn’t provide any opportunity to opt-in for storage of location data, no choice was ever given. Sony didn’t do enough to ensure the anonymity and privacy of their users, they didn’t even encrypt personal data.

Lawyers will point to the end-user license agreement and TOS but the relationship between a brand and a person is much more than a legal contract. Nobody reads these documents, we just scroll down to mark the checkbox and get on with it. They protect the legal structure of an enterprise but they don’t do anything for customers. Sony and Apple, just like other enterprises that collect data, don’t put clear verbiage in front of people and give them real options. And, yes, the option to selectively enable and disable data collection and sharing should be included.

Sony had good reasons to collect customer data: It provides them the opportunity to sell more products by delivering relevant messages at an opportune time. That’s fine as long as the customer can make a risk assessment: Is a $5 coupon worth the risk of identity theft?

Trust in data security is eroding.

This is only the beginning of the end of personal data collection by enterprises. Almost every day we read about examples of companies abusing the ownership of our personal data. This massive crisis might force Sony into opening their data systems to independent external auditors, letting them access the source code of the implementation and validating that data is secured and used in a way consistent with the privacy criteria both parties agreed on. They will have to change their communication with customers to make it more human, less legal and transparent.

Will it be enough?

In the short-term, those measures should help the gain the trust of their most avid customers. In the long-term, more breaches in different verticals will become public and customers will finally see that their data is being treated recklessly and without any respect.

Ultimately, enterprises have to deal with this reality:

People will understand their personal data has more value than a “$1 off” coupon. They will refuse to give enterprises long-term access to their data. Instead, they will allow them to access their data for a limited amount of time in exchange for a real value proposition. People have given the key to brands too many times, just to get a wrecked car in return. It’s about time, they demand the key back.


Many people in our industry are thinking about the future of agencies. Mitch Joel wrote a nice piece. I spoke about it before. The majority of pundits agree that any successful agency has to be agile. That’s an important principle but if you’re having 10 different businesses working on the same brand and nobody talks to each other, agility starts to feel a bit superficial as a founding principle.

Organizational principles are fundamental for a successful company but we need to dig deeper to find the real reason some agencies deliver good work and some play in the ugly lake of mediocrity. The culture, the mindset, the inner spirit of the agency has to be right to deliver excellence.

That’s where the moral compass comes in

The best places I worked for had a strong moral compass. They set expectations internally and with the client. Agency business can be very difficult, labor-intense and caffeine-fueled. There has to be more than a good title or a fat paycheck. A moral compass gives everybody a little kick when times are tough. It elevates your agency from a service provider to a consultancy.

Providing a service implies a hierarchy. Consultancy implies a level-playing field: We’re all adults here, let’s try to solve the problem. Clients that consider you a service provider, don’t care if your creative team just got hired by somebody else. They don’t care that your media team has the flu. They just want to get the job done. Period.

Agencies with a moral compass have the freedom to disagree with the client. They are asked to disagree, when necessary. (I know, gasp!) Consultants are employed to provide thoughtful counsel, bring their point of view to the table. That’s where your value is, not by hiring a good director, production company or having close relationships to publishers.

People will hire you out of respect for your insights and they will be more forgiving when a campaign/initiative fails miserably. It’s not about riding high from success to success, it’s about learning from executions and applying these insights to the next campaign. The moral compass will be the guiding principle for your relationship and the work both of you collaborate on.

If you plant honesty, you will reap trust

Empathy is extremely important. You have to understand the pressures on your client and you need to integrate the internal structures into your recommendation. It’s an ongoing learning process. Empathy cuts both ways. Clients have to understand that they can’t expect a Rembrandt when they hand us Crayolas. Agencies need to be clear about this dilemma before any brief lands on the table.

In a world where a bunch of agencies work on the same brand, good agencies will not fight for money out of selfish reasons. They will fight for budget because they believe in their POV and they want the best for their client.

Being a service provider will only get you so far. When you want to make real impact with your work, you need to be a considerate and thoughtful adult with a strong moral compass. Not a reactionary and whiny kid.


Facebook is starting to join the real-time conversational marketing bandwagon. Basically, ads will be delivered based on the declared intention of the user. Ad Age explains:

“Users who update their status with “Mmm, I could go for some pizza tonight,” could get an ad or a coupon from Domino’s, Papa John’s or Pizza Hut. (…) ”

With real-time delivery, the mere mention of having a baby, running a marathon, buying a power drill or wearing high-heeled shoes is transformed into an opportunity to serve immediate ads, expanding the target audience exponentially beyond usual targeting methods such as stated preferences through “likes” or user profiles. Facebook didn’t have to create new ads for this test and no particular advertiser has been tapped to participate — the inventory remains as is.

A user may not have liked any soccer pages or indicated that soccer is an interest, but by sharing his trip to the pub for the World Cup, that user is now part of the Adidas target audience. The moment between a potential customer expressing a desire and deciding on how to fulfill that desire is an advertiser sweet spot, and the real-time ad model puts advertisers in front of a user at that very delicate, decisive moment.”

Could this work? Isn’t that finally the transformation of advertising from attention to intention? VRM has finally arrived? Hallelujah?

Sadly, no. Facebook tries to find a business model that can help them sustain their valuation of $85 billion. Or, is it $4.5 gazillion by now? Fact is, the Facebook ads perform abysmal. Brand pages and apps are doing okay but Facebook needs to make most of their money from  ads. So, they are scrambling. Problem is, the contract between Facebook and each Facebook user is broken. It’s not broken enough for people to leave Facebook. We’re just too lazy to head over to another network. It might happen one day. But not in the foreseeable future. The platform is too user-friendly, too big and too embedded into our daily lives.

Facebook is the new Microsoft

We didn’t like to use PC’s, always envied the Apple users. We didn’t really care for another version of Office. But the rest of the world was using it. Microsoft was omnipresent and we had no alternatives. That’s how people feel about Facebook. John Battelle thinks people will game the system. I don’t really see it as gaming, just another way to look for special offers.

But that’s not real challenge.

Facebook has only one asset: You & me, and the community we create. In order for Facebook to command any decent valuation, all of us have to be comfortable with the deal. And the deal is that Facebook sells our data, our personas to marketers. This requires an open, truthful and transparent relationship between Facebook and us. Have you ever thought of Facebook as an open, truthful and transparent company?


The Intention Economy is built around more than transactions. Conversations do matter. Relationships as well. So, do reputation, respect and trust. To think Facebook can be the mediator in an intention economy is, to say the least, questionable.


“Advertising says to people, “Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it’ll do for you. Here’s how to get it.” – Leo Burnett

I’ve been in advertising for more than 15 years. I believe good advertising can enrich people, it can inspire them and I regard advertising as a noble profession. If there’s a better way to showcase to people what your brand has to offer, explain the benefits and ways to get the product/service, I haven’t experienced it. Nobody has.

So, why does Adland have such an image problem? Why do 76% of Americans think companies lie in ads? (2009 Yankelovich study) Why do people have problems trusting any of our communications? And, why are we starting to see real recruiting challenges in an economy nobody would describe as humming?

Some blame holding companies and their pure focus on shareholder value, rather than focusing on reinvention of the agency model. Some blame the compensation structure that rewards bodies and time, not great ideas. Some blame the split of media and creative. You ask people in the industry, everybody has a different explanation for the current state of the ad industry.


The problem goes much deeper: people have lost trust in institutions and business. And, let’s be honest, businesses and institutions have betrayed that trust. BP, Enron, Vioxx, Facebook, Catholic Church, Congress, your local city government: We’re surrounded by brands and institutions that betrayed us, lied to us, treated us like dumb sheep, acted like they were above the law. And advertising provides the background noise to that sad drama with exaggerated product claims and photoshopped models. The threat to advertising and our industry is a threat to capitalism. And, just like advertising, I haven’t seen a better system than the capitalistic system.

But, it’s time to change both.

We need to make the advertising industry better. And, at the same, improve the overall capitalistic system. Just like capitalism, the advertising industry needs to cut its worst excesses or Uncle Sam will do it for us. ( In case, you don’t believe me: Have you seen the FTC proposal for a ‘Do Not Track’ option?)

Our future will not look like the past. The past was based on a model of industrial production, the new model will be based on a globalized, collaborative information model. It can’t be about more stuff and pure growth. It has to be about being better, kinder, lovelier and inspiring. It can’t be about targeting consumers, it has to be about collaborating with all of our stakeholders. Ultimately, we have to change our vision and mission of the advertising industry:

  • Our main goal is to make the world a better place. Adding value, inspiring, enhancing life experiences. Making money is a by-product, not the overarching goal.
  • A brand is developed by all stakeholders. Not the marketing department.
  • Business is about fairness, joy and love. Not cut-throat competitive tactics.
  • We work with human beings. Not human resources.
  • We collaborate with competitors to enhance each other’s products/services. Not buy them out to eliminate their intellectual work and the value they could have added.
  • Customers are all people affected by the creation of the product or service. Not just end users.
  • We will communicate values that brands stand for and live. And not some fake world that never existed.
  • Advertising is helping to change the world. Not just change behavior for more consumption.


The belief that this is just a bump in the road and everything will get back to normal at one point is the biggest threat we’re facing. The new normal will be completely different from the old normal. The demands and expectations on capitalism and our industry will grow, just like people expect more and more from brands and institutions. If you think the last decade was filled with change, you ain’t see nothing yet. Think about it:

  • How ware we going to deal with India and China as the new dominant forces in the global economy?
  • What are you going to do when your competitors 2015 come from Vietnam, Spain and Nigeria? Not New York and San Francisco.
  • How will we replace dumb growth with smart growth?
  • How will we strengthen our country’s fiscal future while investing in our people?
  • What types of jobs will we offer to people that had jobs that will never be replaced?
  • How are we going to deal with the demographic challenge?
  • How are we going to revive the middle class?
  • (Insert 500 more urgent questions here.)

The next decade will bring a collision of forces that that threaten to disrupt the Western system, and call into question capitalism, a force on which our prosperity and stability have rested for decades. Forget the financial crisis, the debt crisis, all these political fights pundits tend to focus on. These are just precursors. We’re facing graver economic challenges that are long-term and threaten capitalism as a model for the world. The stakes couldn’t be higher: if we don’t maneuver successfully through the coming storms, we’ll face a major backlash against our economic model. If the world loses faith in capitalism’s ability to improve the lives of everybody, we will have failed miserably and doomed the developing world to infinite poverty.


We really have no choice: All of us have to create a better form of capitalism. And our job as advertisers is to create a better form of advertising and being a support pillar for the new, more human form of capitalism. We are building this new reality with every decision we make, with every ad we create, with every product purchase we make. For years, we mistakenly believed we had ascended to the zenith of modern capitalism. We knew all of the answers and just need to optimize a little bit here, increase efficiency there and everything would be fine. Events and facts taught us that the journey of capitalism might have just begun. And we need to ask that age-old question again: How can we make the world a better place?


Brands often consider creating communities on their site or social platforms. It sounds so appealing: You create a community and now you have an easily accessible group of people that you can engage and converse with.

The problem is: You can’t create communities

Think about your local community. It wasn’t created by plopping down a Starbucks, Target or a local snack shack and then hoping for people to show up. Communities are places where like-minded people can come together. That’s why you have art communities, food communities, religious communities – you name it. And that’s the reason why certain stores and brands don’t work in your community because they don’t understand the mindset of your local world.

In the digital space, brands often consider communities as a place to be worshipped by people. Instead, online communities are places where like-minded people hang out and, if you’re really lucky and doing a great job managing the community, where people can interact with brands and tell them how to do a better job delivering their product/service. At the minimum, brands need to help communities do what they want to do. Brands need to give people something concrete to gather around for. You have to kill your corporate hubris and believe that participants in your community can actually improve your product/service. Foster discourse and an open exchange of ideas.

Tap into the need of people to be heard: People have transformed from passive consumers to active collaborators and co-creators of the products and services they produce. These principles help you tap into the power of communities by developing a foundation of trust, motivating people to become more active participants and providing access to peer group knowledge and skills. It requires a lot of work and community management to tap into the power of communities. You don’t create communities, you merely help them get things done. On their terms. Based on their needs. Not yours.


For a few weeks, an Australian study created some waves because it talked about teenagers who are “text addicts” and suffer from a range of serious mental and physical disorders. NTNews writes:

“The study – which was conducted out of RMIT University in Melbourne – has suggested that the mobile telephone has become “meshed” into the everday lives of teenagers.

Jeannie Carroll, a technology researcher from the Melbourne University who has been conducting the study since 2001, says texting is a major part of teenage lives.

“Texting is quite tribal – it is just what teenagers do with phones,” she said. Ms. Carroll said her study had shown a pattern of behaviour easy to classify into four groups:

Textaphrenia: thinking you’ve heard a message come in or felt the device vibrate when it actually hasn’t.

Textiety: the anxious feeling of not receiving any texts or not being able to send any.

Post-traumatic text disorder: physical and mental injuries related to texting, like walking into obstacles and crossing roads blindly – all while texting.

Binge texting: teenagers sending multiple texts to feel good about themselves and trying to attract responses.”

While the study made no waves, it was picked up as story everywhere in Australia and Asia: Here, here, here, here, here, here, here and I could go on to link to 6,940 results. The original press release can be downloaded here.

Problem is, the press release and its content is a hoax and part of a marketing campaign for Boost Mobile. There was a study about youth mobile behavior, conducted by Shari Walsh in 2008, but the study never talks about addiction or mental disorders. The aforementioned Jennie Carroll went further and gave interviews but quickly distanced herself from the disorder names (invented by Boost Mobile) when the scam was finally called out by various Australian publications.

Clearly, the campaign can be called clever. It used the weakness of central-hub-plagiarism based news media to get major exposure for a campaign. Boost Mobile and their agency, TCO (The Conscience Organization), created these “disorders” first, turned it into an ad campaign, supported through academia and then a story was woven to support the advertising campaign.

The ads are clearly a spoof, the URL links out to their Facebook page.

Well, I could talk about the state of journalism for the next few hours but I will spare you that. Instead, let’s talk about the overall marketing campaign

  • No matter how you slice it, it is unethical to create “disorders” and then promote them in media. Not everybody is a media cynic. People actually do believe what is written or said on TV/Radio.
  • A total failure as a comprehensive marketing campaign. Once you see the ads, you should understand that everything said is just advertising. But, if you see the news reports alone, you might think this is for real.
  • Boost Mobile wanted to target teenagers. I’m sure they achieved that goal. As an unintended consequence, they alarmed parents. I would love to find out how many teenagers caught grief from their parents because of the news reports.
  • The PR agency sent out the press release fully aware that the media may just be unethical or lazy enough to run it. Being unethical by exploiting unethical media. And the consumer was the loser. Once again.
  • The campaign didn’t make sense: Ok, so you are ‘suffering’ from this disorder and your cure is cheaper texting? I’m an alcoholic and the cure is cheap whisky? They should have done the opposite, claiming texting makes your life better, releases happy hormones, whatever. And Boost Mobile makes it affordable to feel better.

Lessons learned

  • Unethical marketing doesn’t pay off. I know, this is more of a gray area but still, the press release didn’t mention an ad campaign, tried to use a weakness of media. What will happen next time the agencies and Boost Mobile issue a press release. Is anyone going to believe them?
  • If you create an integrated campaign, better integrate your agencies first. It’s pretty obvious that PR and ad agency didn’t work together. The press release has a different tonality than the advertising campaign. It almost feels like we’re talking about 2 different brands. Did both agencies deliver independent solutions to one Creative Brief? Very possible.
  • Consider unintended consequences. Parents are by nature protective. News reports about texting mental disorders might convince parents to take that cell phone away. Not really the goal of a campaign for text service, right?
  • Short-Term Gain often results in Long-Term Pain. Your short-term stunts often end with crashes and negative long-term effects for your brand. Consider that before you race down that ramp like Evel Knievel. You might just crash and burn.
  • Transparency equals trust. When you create a transmedia spoof campaign be open about it. That doesn’t mean you have to reveal everything upfront. It means, make it obvious to anyone it’s a spoof. Make it outrageous. Make it funny. And make it so transparent, even a grandmother gets it.

What do you think? Am I too harsh? I’ve read a few comments from Australia and the industry folks were mostly impressed with the campaign. Are you?