Apple, Patagonia and Coldplay are brands we truly love and want to be associated with. Can you imagine what you could do to make your stakeholders love your brand?
What do you see in the pictures above? Steve Jobs is photographed out walking when he spots a Macintosh in action. Then there is Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, photographed in nature. And finally, there is Chris Martin in Coldplay, captured while doing what he truly loves. I see love in these pictures. They tell stories of authentic leaders who have built trust and strong brands through years of authenticity and consistency. They have made the cause the core of the brand and having the cause work as a navigating tool for making important actions and decisions, as the brand evolves.
According to Edelman Trust Barometer published earlier this year a lack of faith in societal institutions triggered by economic anxiety, disinformation, mass-class divide, and a failure of leadership has brought us to where we are today – deeply and dangerously polarized. Fifty-three percent of respondents globally say that their countries are more divided today than in the past. Business is now the only institution seen as competent and ethical, and CEO’s are obligated to improve economic optimism and hold divisive forces accountable. This represents a huge opportunity for brands who want to play a part in making the world a better place.
Attending Coldplay-concerts has been an incredible hype not only in Norway these past couple of years. Last summer my social media channels were overflown by happy friends dancing and singing with Coldplay at various arenas. It has been reported that 4 million admissions were bought around the world in 2022. If you were one of those 4 million, I think you understand why. In addition to their great music and totally mind-blowing performance, their concerts are all about love, peace, and inclusion. In their cinema-published recording from Buenos Aires last year, they had an Iranian woman sing a Persian song as a tribute and support to women in Iran, a member of a South-Korean boyband performed a farewell song before joining the army, while Chris Martin emphasizes love, peace, and trust in each other across cultures, genders, and borders. It is quite amazing to watch him orchestrating audience in the front turn around, wave, and sing to the audience in the back, and having everyone put away all technology to embrace the moment, sing together and send love from Buenos Aires to the world. At one point they played a part of Louis Armstrong’s beautiful intro to A Wonderful World – you should listen to this version if you haven’t heard it already. Comforting and forever wise words we need to hear now, more than ever.
Right now, trust in familiar democratic institutions is declining all over the world, and businesses are expected to fix it.
A Call to Action
Almost a decade ago I wrote my master thesis on the assumption that “The level of trust within a team affects the team efficiency”. Our own research proved that teams with a low level of trust are affected negatively, while we couldn’t conclude that teams with a high level of trust were positively affected. However, many recent studies have found that trust in teams and organizations represents perhaps the number one competitive advantage.
Research by Deloitte found that trust is a critical driver of engagement. Employees who trust their employer are 260 % more motivated to work. The same study showed, on the other hand, that around 25 % of the workers don’t trust their employers, while most employers overestimate their workforce’s trust level by more than 40 %.
PwC’s Trust Survey 2023 reports that 91 % of business executives believe that their ability to build and maintain trust improves their bottom line. Gallup’s Global Workplace Report has found that while employees’ trust in leadership is declining, leadership is the key driver for motivation, and each motivated employee represents 40 % more efficiency. The Regenerative Marketing Institute found that total return to shareholders in deep-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low trust organizations.
What you need to do
We based our thesis research on Mayer et al. (1995), illustrated here:
This model could just as well illustrate how Apple, Patagonia and Coldplay have spent years taking important actions, step by step, year in – year out, rewarding them with trust, loyalty, and strong relationships with their stakeholders.
By demonstrating how each of these organizations have the ability to deliver great products, acting out benevolence by inviting an Iranian woman to perform an important song, producing hidden messages during a crucial election, or taking an important stand on issues that matter to many of us, are all actions that build their integrity.
So, what actions do you need to take in order to become a deep-trust organization? I’m sorry to say that there are no quick fixes to building a truly strong brand. But the good part is that it is simple, and incredibly rewarding! It’s fun to be instantly rewarded by engaging with your people, whether they are motivated and engaged employees, emotionally happy clients, or other stakeholders. Whoever they are, they will become your ambassadors, and internally you will be rewarded with a strong culture that attracts talents and make sure they stay with you so that you always have the right people to help you make your brand even stronger.
At Innovation Lab we help our clients stay relevant by helping them build a strong and sustainable brand through making the right choices. One of my first tasks when entering a new client relationship is to do a short and simple survey among employees and clients. How do they perceive the brand? Are leaders and employees acting according to values? Are there obstacles or issues getting in the way of building the brand you want? I recommend this kind of survey is conducted by someone outside the company, people often feel they can talk freer when it’s not a familiar colleague or someone they might suspect has a hidden agenda.
This survey is part of the starting point for starting to work on mapping out the existential foundation of the company. The existential foundation will be turned into the company’s operating system, overall strategy, and action plan for how to build and evolve.
The success lies in consistency and authenticity rewarded with trust over time. Strong brands are bold, and they operate with a long-term grit, determination, and focus. But instant success is immediate, and all actions must be tracked and evaluated to ensure continuous small and big wins along the way towards becoming a truly great brand.
I look forward to digging deeper into this during my webinar coming up in May. I will share the tools I use when working with building a strong brand through deep-trust organizations. I hope you’re curious and up for the task because society and the World need you! I’ll look forward to seeing you on the 4th of May!