Friday, November 02, 2007

Are'nt brands about Confidence

Just came across an interesting Gartner article on the "Confidence Index" in outsourcing relationships. While I explore this a little further in the context of my business - it is interesting to put this in the context of brands.
In 2001, a Gartner study on trust and business relationships asked IT services customers to rate the relative importance of "trust" in their business decision making. It became evident that, while trust was of overriding importance, there were no definitive views on what constitutes trust. Put simply, people know trust "when they see it" ; but are unable to define it. Sounds familiar ?
Gartner goes on to establish that the confidence both parties have in a business relationship is determined by the level of trust and the perceptions of how good or poor are the controls that govern the relationship. When this thinking is applied to brands - specially in consumer products, the results become interesting.
Lets take a look at trust first. Trust is acquired through a combination of right functionality, meeting expectations, consistency, meaningful communication, responsiveness, cultural fit and reputation. I am not very sure that marketers focus on all these parameters. Product development rarely understands right functionality from a consumption point of view, advertising typically raises (and mismatches) expectations, consistent quality is part of a sourcing / manufacturing process, communication touchpoints get meaninglessly used, few brands have customer service departments in place etc etc. A lot of thought and investment goes into cultural fit and reputation build. There may be merit in viewing the other aspects as part of marketing investment.
When we approach Control - it becomes a lot more iffy. Specially in mass marketed consumer goods - what sort of control should be presented to the customer ? - Wrong question / answer.. As long tail thinking has clearly begun to demonstrate - the customer wants , and will cast a vote for control. Some mix elements which can deliver "right control" to the customer / consumer would be feedback mechanisms (which are actioned), decision mechanisms (for rapid resolution), setting standards (and clearly communicating them as well as adherence), advance change management mechanisms (have you ever been through a packaging design change ?) , interactive loyalty solutions, financial clarity and responsibility, continuous improvement, benchmarking (visibly) and effective demand management. Once again a number of things that get done in bits and pieces.
If brands are about confidence - thinking on trust and control is a must in any marketing plan and budget. Arguably - its a cheaper and better area to spend than much of media.


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