Simon Murphy
Jul 1, 2019

Earning trust in the new age of brand democracy

Less frequency and more meaning is what advertisers must strive for, according to Simon Murphy at Edelman Hong Kong.

Earning trust in the new age of brand democracy

The last couple of weeks were important for the marketing world.

At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, P&G CMO Marc Pritchard announced that the company’s ad dollars would be moving away from frequency to focus more on reaching a wider audience. On the face of it, this move is nothing new for P&G, which announced in 2017 that they would be cutting US$2 billion from their advertising budget by 2021.

But it’s the message behind the headline that we should all be paying attention to. The old advertising model of high volume and high frequency is broken. Instead, a more meaningful measure, as Pritchard says, is creating ads “people actually want to watch” and then looking at how many people are searching for your brand. He stands by the fact that Gillette’s advert from earlier this year was well received and was a reflection of people’s values.

Whether you agree or not, it’s hard to dispute the premise of what P&G is trying to do; while it’s not going to dismantle the old advertising model, it’s certainly going to give them a run for their money. My money, meanwhile, is on something else: earned creative.

This year’s PR Lions Grand Prix was awarded to “The Tampon Book: A Book Against Tax Discrimination,” a powerful campaign that was thoroughly earned and aggressively creative. The win was remarkable on many levels, not least because it shed light (and generated understandable outrage) on the fact that women in Germany are forced to pay a 19% luxury tax for a product they physiologically can’t live without. The campaign demonstrated how, by tapping into consumer trust, a brand can quickly captivate attention and elicit a response through an entirely earned approach (the first printing of "The Tampon Book" sold out in a day).

Trust represents a brand’s license to operate. It also determines how consumers will act in the future, including whether they choose to engage, advocate, refer, defend or purchase. In fact, according to Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust?, a major purchase consideration for consumers is trust – 81% of buyers now say they “must be able to trust the brand to do what is right”.

Trusted brands are those who act and communicate with a clear purpose, inspiring people to care as much about a company’s vision and mission as its products. A company like The Female Company, the folks behind “The Tampon Book,” is just two years old, but arguably has more trust capital than most companies can hope to build in a lifetime.

Put simply, if this were an ad campaign then it would, without doubt, fall into Pritchard’s category of ads that people actually want to watch. What makes this earned campaign unique is not the communications or the creative alone, but rather the trust that binds the brand with the consumer.

P&G’s shot across advertising’s bows and the brilliantly creative “Tampon Book” PR campaign both serve as a reminder for all brands. For them to engage and succeed, business objectives must be centered around trust, or risk being held back by its absence. And whilst reputation reflects how stakeholders feel about brands today, it is trust that will direct how they are going to act with, and for, brands in future.

Welcome to the new age of brand democracy.

Simon Murphy is head of reputation at Edelman Hong Kong

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