Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CEO's: Brand Trust is Job #1 in this economy

An organizational mandate for CEO’s in this economy is building and protecting brand trust. Your logo is a promise to your people, your customers and your investors. Every move you make either builds upon the trust of your brand or detracts from it. Is your trust bank where it needs to be to weather the economic storm? Your corporate reputation depends on it.

Why does it always take a “bad” incident for a company to develop a trusted brand? It took the demise of Enron to give us the Sarbanes-Oxley practices that all corporations are deploying today. Let’s face it. American icons, celebrities, athletes and corporations are letting us down. Americans want to be loyal to brands they trust and that meet their needs.

Here are some things you can do today to build your trust bank:

Be Transparent in all you do
Dan Amos, CEO of Aflac, inherited a company that was founded on ethical principles. “This company was founded with the premise that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the company. One of the aspects that helps the company continue to thrive is Amos’ transparent leadership. “As a public company there is a responsibility to tell people what is happening regardless of whether the news is particularly good or bad,”

Have a meaningful Corporate Responsibility platform your people can be proud of
Giving back must be part of your business model today. The most relevant brands give back with every transaction. They share their story to their people and customers with pride and assurance that the dollars raised are going to the stated cause. Starbucks retail merchandising does a great job communicating their social platforms in every part of the facility. From the take one counter display to their Ethos Water bins, we know they give back and to whom. It makes us feel good and makes them a brand we can trust.

Lead by Example
The best way for your organization to build trust is for you and your leadership team to hold yourself accountable to an ethical leadership style at all times. The law is the law. However, within your organization there are rules that should not be broken. Make your rules and guidelines public and then insure compliance through rewards and when ethics are compromised.

Fad brands need to lead with ethics and trust in order to endure
Facebook inventor and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is one of the youngest billionaires in the USA at 23 years of age. He built a social networking brand called Facebook that is enjoyed by over 150 million users. People join the site to share ideas, stories, build friendships and business. Recently Zuckerberg revealed his philosophy on his data base. “In reality we would not share information in a way you would not want.” Perhaps Mr. Zuckerberg is too young to understand that brand trust is the number one thing he must protect. Building a base of 150 million loyal users is hard to do. Building a trust bank to keep those users coming back, safe and protected is easy to do when you realize your job is to build brand trust.

Regulatory Compliance
This seems like a given. Assign leaders in the firm that not only comply to national regulations but help blaze new trails so your brand can grow. This year Forbes named Noblis as the world’s most ethical company, Noblis is a dynamic nonprofit science, technology and strategy organization dedicated to science and technology to serve the public’s interest. “Our relationships are based on earned trust and our ability to provide scientific, technical, and strategy solutions to complex problems in an objective and conflict free manner. This recognition is a reflection of the teamwork and effort that everyone here put into building our culture, values and processes,” said Amr ElSawy, President and CEO of Noblis.

Select and Ethical Board of Directors
Your board plays a key role to help you achieve your business aspiration with the ethics and integrity you seek. Their advice and counsel helps weather the tough times. Each hand-selected board member should add to the trust bank by who they are and what they bring to the strategy table. Create a rock star board that extends your trust values.

Even in today’s economy, there are brands that have risen to the top in the financial sector because of their ability to understand, communicate and deliver a trusted brand. The Luxury Institute reports that high net-worth consumers rated Fidelity Brokerage Services the most trusted retail broker in the new 2008 Luxury Brand Trust Index (LBTI) survey. Respondents say they trust the firm that provided "excellent service and ideas for making money," "holds the investor's concerns as a priority," and has "your best interests at heart." Charles Schwab and Wachovia Securities rank second and third, respectively. Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute states, "Wealthy consumers agree it is not enough to outperform your competition; you have to out-behave them too.” That is brand trust.

Building your trust bank is done action by action, day-by-day. Over time, when done right it can put a shine on your brand to weather the roughest economy we have seen in forty years.

Contact us; at srosen@airliftideas.com 312.492.7772. Do you think your firm is in need of a brand story. Please contact us at the information below to see if you qualify.

Source: Luxury Institute, Forbes, Ethisphere


Axel Schultze said...

Wouldn't necessarily say Brand Trust is the #1 job of a CEO but understanding how a brand get's created in the first place is.

There are still too many people believing that a company can CREATE a brand. And even worst some believe that marketing can MAKE a brand.

A BRAND is the reflection of the market on a certain company or product, sometimes even a person. Hence the BRAND is CREATED IN the market FROM the market. All a company can do is facilitate the brand building process IN the market. And that is probably the ONLY at least the most common reason to start a social media engagement because that is where brand CREATION happens. Facebook is a BRAND with 140,000,000 users and brand advocates. Facebook never did advertising, mail shots, bill boards.. but obviously with its own platform FACILITATED the BRAND CREATION process.

Airlift Brand Story Telling said...

Well Axel, I disagree about your point that the market is created by the people. the passion for the brand is created by the people but the CEO of a firm sets the ethics and business practices of the firm. Yes the FACEBOOK founder created a big idea but he forgot about the users. By making his comment about using thier informatoin he violated a brand ethic, trust. We can disagree but int he end that is all one has...ethics. Shelley