On the Scene: Gartner CRM Summit '09—Trust Is the New Differentiator

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It turns out the exchange of trust involves more than good eye contact, unwavering verbal testament, and a firm handshake. Consumers, in particular, are now pickier about who they’ll trust, and as Gartner analyst Michael Maoz said at his firm’s recent CRM Summit in Scottsdale, trust is becoming the real differentiator with consumers in a Web 2.0 world. “Growing trust will be more important than growing the customer base,” he said, citing figures that in 2009, only 10 percent of survey respondents said that they trust large corporations. 

Later in the week, psychology and marketing professor Dr. Robert B. Cialdini presented on the implications of influence and trust. “Trust is the most valuable coin in modern business exchange,” Cialdini said. Trust is so important, in fact, that research firms are devoting countless hours to finding who consumers trust the most—peers, authority figures, the government, etc. (For more on the topic, see two articles from the October 2009 Insight section of CRM: “Who Do You Trust About Trust?,” and the Required Reading interview with Trust Agents co-author Chris Brogan.)  

Consensus is an important mechanism for gaining trust and influence, Cialdini said, and companies should not only make peer-to-peer testimonials and references available, but make them more relevant, as well. He advised attendees to segment peer testimonials into subcategories that represent different sectors of their respective markets. 

In mid-September, global consultancy Interbrand put forth its 10th annual Best Global Brands list. Scoring is aggregated based on financial analysis, brand influence, brand strength score, and brand value. “In times of rampant change brands remain a powerful source of continuity and trust,” said 

Jez Frampton, the global chief executive of the company. “Brands provide a degree of security in times of economic instability; and in times of prosperity, brands offer opportunity.” 

In the report’s foreword, Frampton addressed two visible trends from a consumer perspective: “There is an increasing requirement for ‘brands I can trust’ and an exponential shift in social and consumer networking.” 

Most of the top brands are heavily engaged in social media, leading to the question: What impact does social engagement have on trust? Would consumers value a brand as much if they saw little of it in their social networks? 

Perhaps not coincidentally, the top-ranked global brands are also highly active in the social Web. The Interbrand report delves into Coca-Cola’s Internet presence, lauding the company’s Facebook fan page where Coca-Cola fans share stories, leave comments, and receive messages sent from the brand.  

Reaching beyond the traditional understanding of “brand” into the topic of social engagement, Altimeter Group recently released, in conjunction with Wetpaint, a study about the most-engaging brands. The report evaluated Interbrand’s Top 100 Brands and determined the levels of social engagement of each. Not surprisingly, the top companies also rated highest in terms of level of engagement. 

Even more telling, the report cited a positive correlation between social engagement and financial performance. Companies grouped in the top category as “social media mavens” on average grew 18 percent in revenues over the previous 12 months. Altimeter suggested that any company with a mindset enabling broad engagement with customers “probably performs better because the company is more focused on [customers] than the competition [is].”  

A look at recent rankings

Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2009: 

  1. Coca-Cola 
  2. IBM 
  3. Microsoft 
  4. General Electric 
  5. Nokia 
  6. McDonald’s 
  7. Google 
  8. Toyota 
  9. Intel 
  10. Disney 
TRUSTe's Most Trusted Brands for Privacy:
  1. eBay 
  2. Verizon 
  3. U.S. Postal Service 
  4. WebMD
  5. IBM
  6. Procter & Gamble 
  7. Nationwide 
  8. Intuit 
  9. Yahoo! 
  10. Facebook  
Altimeter Group's and Wetpaint's Most Engaging Brands (July 2009):
  1. Starbucks 
  2. Dell  
  3. eBay 
  4. Google 
  5. Microsoft 
  6. Thomson Reuters 
  7. Nike 
  8. Amazon.com 
  9. SAP 
  10. (tie): Yahoo!/Intel 

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