Sean Combs a rapper better known as Puff Daddy or P. Diddy was accused by his former partner, Cassie Ventura, of assault. He denied it. And when a person is considerably more well known than the other there is a higher tendency to be believed. Until a rather gruesome video was put out by CNN which backed up those allegations. So yeah, facts can cancel trust. Combs has now admitted to the assault.

Is trust just celebrity then?

If you’re well known and there isn’t too much negative known about you, you must be doing something good. Even if, as in the case of Salman Khan or Woody Allen there are some allegations, a believer might allow you leeway saying you must have had good reason, given that so much positive is known about you.

Politicians count on this too – hence the success of movie stars in that space. Others without that launchpad must do yatras and rallies to achieve that same level of awareness. Trust is built on positive awareness.

In the world of business companies leverage their trust credit to launch new products or brands.

What does this mean for a brand?

I saw the horrific news about the Singapore Airlines London to Singapore flight facing turbulence to the extent that a passenger died and many others were injured. As a frequent traveller on that airline it felt very close to home. But as a brand expert, I did question my own reaction. If it was a lesser airline I would have been more likely to blame the airline and say “never will I set foot on their plane”. But because it’s Singapore Airlines which has a fantastic record for safety, I am willing to open my mind and say it was a rare catastrophe that could perhaps not have been avoided.

Airlines as a regulated industry have more rituals than others – safety is embodied in a video, in a demo, in the seatbelts, in the signage, and in the frequent requests by the staff to follow safety practices. Our perception of that safety is both through our lived experience as well as the data. When I see news that a passenger without a seat was allowed to board an Indigo flight my perception of that brand takes a dip despite my own experience being fine.

It is not sufficient for a brand to talk positioning alone – it has to be backed up by artefacts and proof points. A brand is not a logo, it is company culture. When I work on building a brand strategy an important part of the process is identifying the support data for each aspect of the positioning statement. 

What does this mean for a person?

You got to have positive awareness! Otherwise people either have no views about you or they may have the wrong ones. Of course you can choose to build your public persona on your chosen areas – in fact it is safer. Taylor Swift is known for very little outside of her music and related issues. JK Rowling now faces dichotomy in her brand as the world’s richest author vs her views on transgender. This completely overshadows her work with Lumos to end institutionalization of children.

I was thrilled by a reader of my book, Marketing Without Money, who wanted to meet with me! He said it had changed his perspective of his role as CEO of a steel company. When I hear this it reinforces my purpose – to help raise the bar for marketing. That same week a person posted on LinkedIn about how awesome the book was. I am not J K Rowling – but to be known as a trusted author is a big deal for me 🙂 Yes, I deliberately added in the word trust. I think I’ve earned it by my work over the decades 🙂 

How does AI change this?

When I see content created by AI, I trust myself to know whether it is right or wrong. If it is an area where I do not have competency I go check a trusted source. If you want me to believe in an automated process I need to either have facts that you know what you’re doing or that you’re a brand that in the past has delivered on its promises. For example, if you’ve been running a boutique firm for 20 years and say that you’ve used your knowledge to now automate and scale that is very believable. So we again come back to trust. 

How does this loop back to Effective Marketing?

Recently I was asked to provide the minimum effective marketing plan for a client. This involved paring down a full-fledged plan.I prioritised credibility over reach. Reach without credibility is just vapourware that will generate lots of buzz, but no conversion. If you are struggling with conversion – whether it is for yourself or your business – revisit how you are establishing your claims.

I asked ChatGPT what are the key CMO skillsets and how would one prove them and it came up with great ideas. But so few of us have a LinkedIn profile that reflects that!

Trust is the priceless brand asset.


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