Consumers’ Trust in Brands Has Fallen to a New Low. Surprised? Probably Not – Adweek

Last September, in the wake of news that the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook members without their consent and then deployed it for shady political purposes, Mark Zuckerberg found himself beneath the hot lights of a Congressional hearing. Looking uncomfortable in his navy blue suit, sometimes stammering his responses, the Facebook founder offered many an explanation and apology, including:“It will take some time to work through all of the changes we need to make, but I’m committed to getting it right.”Doubtless that was the best thing to say—but it was too little, too late. Prior to the scandal, 79% of Facebook users said they were confident that the social media platform was “committed” to protecting the privacy of their personal information. But just one week after the Cambridge story broke, that number plummeted to 27%, a 66-point nosedive.Not that lack of trust in tech giants like Facebook was a new thing. In 2016, this magazine reported the results of a ranking by brand consultancy Prophet. Asked to list brands they trusted in the order they trusted them, consumers stuck Facebook down at No. 200. Hardly faring much better, fellow data colossus Google sat at 130.With consumer faith at all-time lows like this, you’d think that the tech sector’s best and brightest might have found ways to rebuild some of consumers’ lost trust—but, if anything, the news seems to have only gotten worse.The latest evidence: Trends in Consumer Trust, a just-released study by customer-relationship management giant Salesforce. It revealed, among other things, that 59% of consumers now fear that their personal data is vulnerable to hackers, and well over half—54%—think that companies don’t operate with their customers’ best interests in mind. “Whether you’re looking across the geographical or political world, [or] the economic and social issues across industries, there have been breaches of trust,” said Stephanie Buscemi, CMO of Salesforce, who spoke with Adweek prior to her keynote presentation on trust issues delivered earlier today at the Digital Marketing Expo & Conference (DMEXCO) in Cologne, Germany. “Customers are in the midst of a trust crisis. In particular, the tech industry is in the center of that,” Buscemi said.And she should know. Cloud-based software maker Salesforce is the largest customer-relationship software firm in the business, so concerns about privacy, data security and the ethics surrounding data use are inescapable issues for its sector.Trust, Buscemi believes, has assumed an equal footing with traditional brand attributes like quality and value to become an essential piece of what any company needs to offer consumers.“It’s no longer enough to have a great product or service,” she said. “You have to build a deep relationship with your customers.”Which sounds great in theory, of course, but what does that mean operationally? After all, trust is a state of mind, a nebulous concept and not the sort of thing a brand can simply create the way it can, for instance, introduce a new service or lower the price of a product.In line with Salesforce’s report’s recommendations, Buscemi stressed the need for brands (all brands, not just the tech giants) to exhibit more transparency with customers and also ask for consent regarding data usage in advance of every transaction.“There’s a lot a brand can do,” she told Adweek. “Every interaction needs to have a level of consent factored in, and every one of those interactions is an opportunity to build trust.” DMEXCO is the digital industry’s largest trade show, so it only makes sense for the largest CRM firm to be talking about data privacy and trust issues there. But the timing of Salesforce’s report is significant for another reason. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)—widely regarded as the American analog to the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation—is set to take effect in January. Its provisions include requiring companies to disclose the personal data they collect, how that data is used and to whom it’s sold, and to delete that data upon request. Given that the CCPA governs not only companies based in California (which Salesforce is) but any companies doing business in that state, brand consultant David J. Deal says it’s not especially surprising that Salesforce would want to talk about trust issues now.Continue Reading


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