How To Be A Modern Business and A Trusted Brand


In ten years, the world saw financial crises, mass uprisings, mass immigrations, augmented reality, espionage, terrorism, natural disasters, climate change, and threats of wars. How does a generation process overwhelming external stimuli?

With thoughtful documentation.

These documented moments are then shared online with the intention to spark humour, boost relationships, or generate awareness.

Humour, for example, is shared through memes. Connections are shared on Facebook, Tinder, Bumble. Awareness is shared from alternative news and opinion sites like Reddit, Mashable, Twitter. Through these collective digital interactions, public opinion is shaped. Today, those opinions affect businesses more than they realise.

On social media alone, people are getting ‘triggered’ by the lack of thought in posts published by high-network accounts; posts that are regularly trivial, populist, moralising, or sometimes, just plain whack. (Cup of covfefe, anyone?)

The latest Edelman global annual study on trust mirrors this scepticism. The report confirms the weighty public mistrust in four key institutions: government, media, business, and NGOs.


But, as always, there’s a silver lining: The Edelman study also shows that business has a higher trust score than government and other institutions, calling it “the last retaining wall, holding back a rising tide of dissatisfaction”.

Now is a crucial time to recover customer trust. How can businesses do this?

1. Get with the times.

Millennial values run on diversity, transparency, kindness, simplicity, the economy of sharing, the freedom of choice, the preservation of natural resources, travel, collaboration, innovation, novelty, health, fitness, and happiness.

That might sound simplistic but even established institutions are having a hard time getting to grips with the current state of affairs. And who can blame them when there’s always something new going on somewhere? Even the New York Times got bubble tea confused as a new thing, bless them.

There’s also an abundance of new words to catch up with. A lot of ‘shade’ is being thrown at the kooky vocabulary, yet every so often these made-up words make it to the dictionary. That’s telling.

Perhaps what would help is to not think of the changes as a bastardisation of cultures and the English language, but as an evolution. What was that expression? If you can’t beat them, join them.

2. Understand what is driving current events.

In Millennialspeak, be ‘woke’ (awake).

Social media channels can be useful barometers for gauging public interest and opinion.

Merriam-Webster, the dictionary, use real-time data tools that help them track which words are being looked up at any given time. They then check to see if these ‘lookups’ have any connection with current events and organise their tweets around popular search words.

ABOVE. A tweet in relation to US President Trump, misspelling heal for heel.

The replies on Merriam-Webster’s Twitter posts are often funny, sometimes insightful, rarely unpleasant. Their level of wokeness demonstrates their relevance in the digital world, all the while becoming a trusted alternative to search engines.

3. Don’t succumb to deceit and ninja tactics.

In an economy built on on fake news, fake customers, fake followers, fake something else, businesses can’t afford to ignore their customers’ disenchantment.

When the deceitful trend of influence manipulation came in the form of fandom sales to boost digital following and interaction, social networks created the verification badge. This would be an added trust measure to establish a person or a brand’s credibility. Or so they thought. Today, that verification badge no longer holds the same authority and clout it once did.

Then, just as this article was being updated, a report revealed a black market for Instagram verification. Perhaps the most surprising part in this revelation is that no one is actually surprised. Websites like Engagement Groups have long been around, and the launch of Surkus App – a “crowd acquisition” tool for businesses doing events – makes it easier for anyone and everyone willing to spend their monies on looking bright, shiny, and ‘bigly’ (as in great).


The flipside? It’s now also easier to spot bots and fake accounts, making the risk of exposure high. The cost of integrity is priceless, but the cost of being outed can be both morally and financially devastating.

4. ‘Keep it 100’ by having a brand philosophy.

There’s always the danger of jumping on hypes and trends, all thanks to FOMO, the fear of missing out. Luckily, there’s an antidote. It’s called a brand philosophy; a manifesto. Businesses can avoid FOMO by having a clear vision of who they truly are.

Patagonia, the outdoors gear company, is a success model in transparency.

They don’t just sell products. They created a brand built on sustainability, reusability, and reduced consumption. And they’re not just doing it to look good. They genuinely care.

How can people tell?

Because no other brand has ever requested customers not to buy from them unless the purchase is absolutely necessary. And no other brand campaigns for the endless reparation of broken merchandise as strongly as Patagonia does.

Does this strategy convert to sales?

Well, Patagonia reportedly made $800 million in sales in 2016.

By refusing to compromise their eco-caring identity, Patagonia earned themselves brand ambassadors and loyal customers (not always mutually exclusive).

5. Avoid selling too hard, too strong, too often.

Hard sell makes brands look ‘thirsty’ because customers today respond better to subtlety. No one wants to be told what’s good for them…anymore.

Think like Innocent, the British juice company, who nailed it on Instagram.

Innocent doesn’t aggressively campaign about the benefits of their juices. Instead, they give their audiences something else to think about.

Like how to reuse their bottles…

And how to get creative with fruits and veggies…

And how to get involved in their philanthropic efforts.

The thing is, it rarely matters how awesome a product or how helpful a service or how fun an event is. Consumers will purchase goods for one or two out of three reasons: need, want, curiosity.

That’s why it’s also important for businesses to appeal to the sensibilities of their customers outside the digital sphere, where people are still humans – not just virtual representations of themselves.

6. Give customers an experience they will remember.

Memories are linked with emotions. By giving customers, potential customers, and employees rare experiences they can be happy about, businesses could do wonders to the recall of their brand.

Since 2014, the popularity of experiential marketing has gone on the rise. Physical shops are finding ways to connect with customers through in-store experiences such as interactive product testings, VR, workshops, pop-ups, meet-and-greets, and so forth, because, as it turns out, it’s not the product that makes people – especially Millennials – part with their cash. It’s how the product relates to them.

Partnerships and collaborations are an exciting way to connect with customers. Look for cultural influences in the music industry, in art, design, and other creative fields. Build a caring reputation that doesn’t just seek to fatten up the company’s financial belly. This is what earns trust.

And although inspirational quotes are overrated, Zig Ziglar did once say something that’s hard to reword:

If people like you, they’ll listen to you.
But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.

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