Who Do You Trust

How to build a brand without spending a fortune


Last week we hosted a very successful Mention Me client event.  To kick the evening off I spoke about a topic I’ve been considering a lot lately: the evolving challenges of building a brand.

It’s a challenge that almost all businesses face but that few really think about until they start spending money on brand advertising. Even fewer think about how the challenge of building a brand will change over the next few years. And yet it will change dramatically.

In order to think about how this challenge is changing, you first need to have thought through what a brand is for. At its very core a brand is a vehicle for trust. The primary value of a brand is its ability to convey trust to customers and potential customers. That trust has huge value and means that people are much more likely to interact with you in the way that you want at every step of their journey.

In the world of retail a trusted brand means that people are more likely to buy from you. Customers go through a consideration process before deciding to buy and you need to move them from awareness to interest through trial, adoption and on to purchase. When a trusted brand is involved in a buying decision, the customer can move through this process more quickly. Where the brand is unknown or untrusted it can prevent the purchase or slow it down. Ultimately building up trust is the way to grow your business as fast as possible.

Over the last fifty years, above the line brand advertising has helped businesses to build brands and store trust. However the world is changing. The marketing mix has gone through a major shift from above the line advertising to online and direct response marketing in the last fifteen years. It will carry on changing and we believe that the next shift will be just as significant. There will be a shift from spending money on media in order to get your message out there towards trust-based marketing.

In an increasingly interconnected world with ever more information at our fingertips we are becoming more skeptical of claims that brands make about themselves. Furthermore, we know that what a brand says about themselves is less reliable than what someone else says about that brand after they’ve experienced it. Particularly if that person is someone we already trust.

Recent surveys reinforce  the trend of increasing skepticism of standard marketing channels. Data from Nielsen comparing consumer trust in various forms of advertising shows that  personal recommendations are the most trusted form of marketing in the UK, according to 81% of the survey respondents.  TV ads are now trusted by just 56%, a decrease in the past two years of almost 5%.  Even online reviews’ trustworthiness is in decline, down to 58%.

It feels appropriate that the internet which was always hailed as an opportunity for increased efficiency should help bring back the very oldest form of marketing to be the core marketing channel of the future. Trust-based marketing, relying on friends talking to each other, is set to be the next chapter of the evolution of the marketing world.   

There will be challenges for trust-based marketing, of course.  Companies will need to stay ahead of the curve with great service and products totally aligned with the marketing messages and positioning they are putting out. Slip ups will become increasingly costly.

Trust-based referral marketing will also need to become more sophisticated.  At the moment consumers don’t email or share every great brand experience. Referral occurs by exception because no one wants to pollute their conversations with their views on each brand they’ve interacted with.  To make referral the core marketing channel it will also need to evolve.  

This is the challenge we face at Mention Me and it’s one that we relish. We love working with our current clients to achieve great results with refer-a-friend marketing today. We’re now working through how we can develop this further. We want to help our clients lead the way in trust-based marketing and have it become their primary marketing channel over the next five years. Watch this space for new products from Mention Me in 2016.

Ultimately companies that look to build trust in everything they do and in every interaction they have with their customers will develop fantastic brands. Those that then harness that trust for growth are those that will be the biggest brands of tomorrow. At Mention Me we can’t wait to help them.

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