Leveraging Tech and Data to Build Old-Fashioned Trust

Big Fuel's strategy guru on what really matters: the customer

Over the last decade the marketing landscape has morphed into an entirely different species. 

Illustration: Shaw Nielsen

In 2004, there was no YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, and portals still reigned supreme over digital content. By 2007, a new digital advertising era began to take form. Millions of consumers flocked to new social platforms, connecting to people and content in new ways. Brands began taking notice and started to experiment on those platforms and in this new space called “social.”

In 2010, experimentation gave way to obligation. Brands didn’t exactly know what all the fuss was about but knew they had to pony up some dollars to stay competitive. If the Mustang fan page had a million likes, then there was no way Camaro could have any less. The social arms race began without the real understanding of why.

Today, the platforms that launched in dorm rooms have hatched into public market juggernauts, driving billions in marketing dollars globally. With all the hype now around building “command centers” and “newsrooms,” it may be safe to say that we have officially evolved from experimentation, past obligation and are now entering the age of participation. The world has shifted yet again and brands have reluctantly recognized that in order to succeed today they must actively play along.

Social is now part of everything, and as a result, participation is the currency that drives the marketing world—a realm where every consumer has a megaphone, content is pulled rather than pushed, real time has replaced prime time, and mobility is everything. Knowing how to leverage data, how to deploy relevant content and utilize cutting-edge tech in order to participate with consumers are the new holy grail.

But stepping back from this frenzy for a moment, we could ask why. Why should brands participate? What is the outcome of this activity and what does participation drive? The answer is trust. Plain and simple.

Let’s look at the duality of marketing. On one side we have consumers. There is no doubt that consumers have more control today, with more options and more power than ever. On the flip side, we have brands. Don’t let them fool you, brands are more powerful than ever. Marketing is more tech-enabled, with more data via targeting, re-targeting, geo-locating, dynamic exchanges, real-time bidding and more than we know what to do with. The balance of power has actually shifted in both directions, and the push-pull between brands and consumer continues unabated. The brands that figure out how to tip the balance in their favor win, and trust is where the balance tips.

According to a recent report from Research Now, when people trust a brand, they are 83 percent more likely to recommend it, 82 percent will use it more frequently, 78 percent will give its new products a chance, and 50 percent are willing to pay more for the product. It’s proven time and again—if a consumer trusts a brand, they will buy more, try more and pay more.

The industry will continue to evolve with more platforms, more tools and next-generation marketing capabilities. Over the next decade, as we think about core areas of focus including audience targeting, measurement, ROI, real-time and content marketing, native advertising and more, it will be essential for marketers to remember that they are now participating in a trust economy. This is an exchange with consumers that starts by providing value and service rather than selling—a dialogue that sets a trustworthy foundation led by “people stories” rather than “product stories.”

With literally petabytes of data at our fingertips and command centers and newsrooms, we have high-intensity marketing tools at our disposal. But if we lose sight of what our consumers care about (and more importantly what they need from us), then we break their trust and all the tech in the world won’t win it back.

In this digitally driven marketplace, where everything is “real time” and open for all to see, brands must connect with consumers in order to build trust—a bond that will be a key driver for commerce for years to come.

Remember, participation counts.

Avi Savar (@avisavar) is the founder and chief strategy officer of Big Fuel.

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