Juliet’s take on brand trust

It seems today that we identify ourselves within the brands we interact with daily. For some, the branding, ethos and styling reflects our personalities and becomes a part of our own individual brand. Perhaps we can blame digital media, perhaps people want to make more ethical investments, or maybe it’s just modern narcissism formed around the conspicuous consumption of trends through recent years.

Either way, when a brand we identify with creates scandal, it is not unusual to feel personally involved, or even betrayed. The question for businesses is: how can you win back the trust of your customers once it’s been lost?

One of Skout’s foundation stones is the practice of transparency and honesty, which would be our advice after a transgression. According to Forbes loyal audiences rely on brands to do three things:

  • Communicate using an authentic voice
  • Establish a friendship
  • Solicit and value feedback

This is exactly why Facebook has been struggling to win back countless users who have since fled to alternative social media platforms following the data protection scandal of a few months ago.

No doubt, every internet and television user has seen the shamelessly ingenuine adverts from Facebook’s marketing team. As grovelingly apologetic as they are in informing users of its new privacy policy, the real problem lies in the inauthentic tone. Facebook is aware that the platform has become pivotal to everyday communication, and this campaign preys on the practical, highly personal purpose that Facebook now occupies – references to shared milestones, ultrasound scans, wedding photos.

People will continue to use Facebook purely due to familiarity and convenience. So, although Facebook has addressed the issue that caused offense, the whole thing seemed a little like blackmail, and Facebook users just aren’t buying into it. Moreover, neither are its investors who have been withdrawing at a rate of 20%.

On the other hand, another social media giant, Snapchat has experienced similar snafus after failing to listen to user demands. Users of the app may have noticed that their feeds have been becoming increasingly advertorial over the past few years.

Snapchat assumed that this increasing commercialisation of the platform was incoherent with its brand aims and appropriately separated friends’ incoming snaps from promotional material from verified accounts such as celebrities, influencers and retailers.

Although the tech company’s response was well-intended, attempting to put its users’ social experiences before money-making advertising opportunities, it failed to communicate its plans to its users before the change was implemented.

I congratulate Evan Spiegel for his belief that celebrities’ social media accounts are not friends, and that Snapchat users should not be led to believe so. However, the immediacy of the changes implemented to the app left the company vulnerable to slander, such as the famous tweet from Kylie Jenner that cost the social media platform $1.3 billion in market value.

Any comment about the app’s redesign from Snapchat itself was then reduced to apathy towards its vital users. Loyal snapchatters quickly felt as though they had been withheld information that they had a right to, and that Snapchat was as much of a friend to them as the celebrities marketing their products. It seems accurate that, had Snapchat spoken directly to its users before Kylie Jenner had, its losses could have been easily avoided.

It’s clear that customer communication is a valuable commodity to any business. It is important for consumers to feel like they are supporting something that they can identify with, and who values them in return. A company’s ability to listen to its customers, react appropriately and keep them informed can prevent scandal, build brand power and help to win back the trust of disappointed customers when something goes wrong.

 

Juliet has been developing inspirational quirks and original opinions since 1994.

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