A new Econsultancy report, Trust, Transparency and Brand Safety looks at how companies are focusing on these areas and consider the factors which have been impacting trust, driving a need for further transparency around a brand’s advertising, and affecting how businesses operate and communicate with their customers.

The research is based on interviews with senior executives working for brands, agencies, media owners and publishers including ANZ Private Bank Australia, The Financial Times, Formula 1®, Jaguar Land Rover, Kantar TNS, Royal Mail, Schroders APAC, The FA and Virgin Atlantic.

For more insight, Econsultancy subscribers can download the full report, but here are several key themes and recommendations emerging from the study.

Taking control of your marketing communications

There was a lot of talk during 2017 about the need to clean up digital advertising and the impact of ‘fake news’ on trust. A CMO Council study found that 78% of companies say their brands have been hurt by unintended associations with objectionable content, images, topics, audiences or conversations.

72% of CMOs say they are facing pressure from management to secure brand trust and gain tighter ad controls.

Interviewees for Econsultancy’s report supported the need for greater transparency from their agencies. Some acknowledged they may have to pay more money for their advertising, but would rather do this to ensure their brand content appears in the right context to the right audiences.

To ensure greater transparency a number of interviewees are developing stronger digital advertising guidelines and contracts for agencies and buying networks to adhere to. Many have also implemented better controls and processes to drive accountability clientside and are also taking steps to better track and monitor ad placements through internal resources, which can often include a manual approval process.

A number of companies interviewed also highlighted the need for clarity on performance-related fees with their agencies and having transparency from the very beginning with any new relationship. According to the WFA more than half (53%) of marketers in a survey said they had added “audit right” clauses to their contracts over the past year. The same proportion said they had added clauses related to media rebates.

Being transparent about your business

58% of adults don’t trust a brand until they have seen ‘real world proof’ that it has kept its promises.

The reality of your business has to match up to your promise to consumers was a clear message from interviewees. John Sinke, Director of Marketing at Hong Kong Disneyland, described how they are demonstrating their ethics by trying to get as close as possible to the truth when letting people know what to expect from their products, service and experience when they come to the park or their hotel.

For Sinke this acts as a guiding principle for marketing and advertising to make sure that what they are trying to market through all channels is in line with reality. The team would rather under promise and over deliver than the other way round.

With the imminent requirements of GDPR, report interviewees saw an opportunity to be clear with customers about why they want their data, how they are collecting information about them and how it will be used. It was then seen as important to use this data in a way that engenders trust and channels transparency.

Putting the customer first and focusing on what your brand stands for

It is clear that too often it is the technology driving a brand’s marketing strategy rather than the customer need.

But for Atom Bank the aim is to do what is best for their customers and build from the customer out.

“Trust is absolutely embedded into our marketing strategy and built into the culture of the company so that everything we do is about building trust and transparency with our consumers. Transparency is one of our design standards, one of the things we hold ourselves accountable to when designing our Atom proposition” said Lisa Wood, Chief Marketing Officer at Atom Bank.

Above all there was a strong view amongst report interviewees that companies must deliver on their promise to consumers and for behaviours of everyone in the company to reflect the values of the business. For brands to help build trust they need to demonstrate that they “really believe” in what they say they stand for.

Tara Prabhakar, Global Director of Client Impact at Kantar TNS highlighted the company had identified 10 principles of trust that cluster around three key areas:

  • Integrity – brands that are trustworthy and operate on integrity.
  • Inclusion – making consumers feel part of that brand world and setting up rules of engagement to include them.
  • Identification – trusted people identify with a brand and understand their needs in specific context.

Finally, it makes good business to be open about your business to your customers and your employees. Focusing on trust can give you a competitive edge. As highlighted by Ellie Norman, Director of Marketing at Formula 1, brands should think of themselves more as individual people with morals and values that they live by.

For more insight, download the new Econsultancy report – Trust, Transparency and Brand Safety.