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The trust-building power of your brand being… everywhere

Whatever the criteria that Kiwis are using when they pick their favourite ads on TV, it can’t be a bad thing to make it into the top 10 (our partner, TRA, recently shared their research into this).

TV is still a powerful medium despite the proliferation of other channels, and it’s not surprising that it is the advertising form that people remember, talk about to their friends – indeed often experience the ad with friends and family – it has talkability.

But it’s not just about being on TV. Most of the favourite ads are from brands that also support the brand on social media (as seen on Zavy’s scoreboard), with not just activation advertising but brand building.

We know that supporting TVCs with brand building on social media and digital amplifies the impact of campaigns, but mainly the measures of this impact are the explicit take out of messaging, brand awareness or influence on decision making.

Trust, implicit and explicit

Advertising is credited with many things – some verifiable, some not. However, something that is often not measured or credited is its implicit impact on trust. We often measure the explicit impact on trust – do people trust, or believe, the message? Is the messenger trusted? Is the medium trusted? Advertisers, for example, use white-coated scientists, celebrity endorsements or figures of authority to enhance trust of the message. Because you trust Dan Carter you will trust the Chemist Warehouse (and not least because he is good looking and we trust good looking people, irrational but true).

However, these explicit trust measures are not the only way branded communications create trust. Trust is created at an implicit level simply by promoting the brand. Promoting your brand suggests you are planning to be around for a while. It implies that you are telling people something that is likely to be true because otherwise you will eventually be found out and people will stop using/buying your product or services. Humans are hardwired to infer trust from self-promotion per se – again irrational perhaps, but true.

Rory Sutherland describes this as having “reputational skin in the game” which acts as a commitment device and creates trust. The more a brand is perceived to invest in its reputation, the more it has to lose from under-delivering – so we tend to trust it.

That self-promotion creates trust is a universal truth

Humans aren’t unique in this regard. Flowers ‘advertise’ themselves to insects, there is a quid pro quo on offer. A brightly coloured flower is advertising its wares, nectar, which it offers in exchange for the insect serving as a pollinator. Its distinctive assets – the colour or size of petals, for example, are an expensive and long-term investment to attract insects. Experiencing the same reward every time they visit that type of flower, recognised by its distinctive assets, is the insect world version of trust.

Brands in the human world also have distinctive assets. They display these through their advertising, but unlike flowers, brands have multiple channels at their disposal. Seeing a brand promoting itself in many different places reinforces the notion of a brand that is confidently talking about itself and that in itself builds implicit trust.

Human brains look for signals as a shorthand for having to process every piece of information they are exposed to. So, if we see a brand on TV, maybe on a bus shelter as we walk down the street and again when we open our devices and browse our social media channels, we see this as a signal of a confident presence – reputational skin in the game, as Rory says.

Brand building is activity that builds trust, too

Repeated exposure builds a sense of a brand that is healthy, thriving and confidently communicating which in turn builds trust. Being everywhere – on TV, on social media, in print, on the street – is stronger than repeated exposure in one medium, because being everywhere that people spend time works at an unconscious level to send the signal that the brand has reputational skin in the game. It is a statement of confidence and of health.

However, we know that brands don’t have an open invitation to force their way into people’s lives, especially on social media. In fact, social channels are spaces for personal connection – or at least, that’s how they started. We must earn that right, just as the favourite ads have earned a place in Kiwis minds by entertaining and touching people’s emotions. Ben and Amy for ASB, Stickman for Pak ‘n Save, and Sky TVs Life Needs More Sport are all brands that specifically support brand building online and in social media.

The good news is brand building activity earns a place in people’s lives. It’s the kind of rewarding, entertaining activity that people can enjoy (or even feel sentimental about). Activation communications are very often described as intrusive or irritating.

So, if a healthy brand is a brand that is everywhere, and a healthy brand is a trusted brand, then a brand’s online presence should focus on entertainment and emotion with brand building at the fore. Not to the exclusion of activation communications, of course, but at least adhering to the 60:40 rule.

Measuring an organisation’s social media brand health with Zavy is a measure of the contribution that online investment is making to the deeper and long-term brand equity measure of trust. Cultural analysis shows that although trust is in decline globally, New Zealand is bucking the trend with trust increasing in both government and organisations. Brands can’t afford to be on the wrong side of this trend. Smart brands will find ways to ride the wave by being omnipresent as a statement of confidence in their brand and their products and services. Extending your brand’s strategy into social media, rather than treating it as an afterthought, and tracking social media brand health will need to be in every brand’s toolbox to do that.

Learn more about how Zavy can help you – get in touch: [email protected]

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