Is the bankruptcy of trust diluting brands?

Quite a few years ago, long before Wells Fargo began fleecing their customers, I gave a speech to Wisconsin executives affirming that the single most compelling market differentiation for businesses and organizations was trust. There’s little doubt, at least in the last 13 months, that trust has been whittled down to pencil-point levels. Banks of all sorts and sizes, companies in the Silicon Valley (that’s you Uber and battalions of well-heeled tech companies), pharmaceutical providers, the NCAA, Equifax, United Airlines and countless others, have felt the heat from a discerning public who seem more focused than ever on keeping a keen eye on the dirty ways of the world.

Thanks to our President, we’re asked to not even trust the Department of Justice, the FBI or the National Intelligence Agency.

Or the mainstream media.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the bankruptcy of trust in this country. We became much more demanding of it when we felt it was being picked out of our very back pockets.

Kalanick, Weinstein, Stumpf, Ailes, Fields, Wynn et al. have dropped like flies, as they should have, and more will get hit by the door on their way out. But there’s a long road ahead to gain the trust that we’ve lost; in our leaders, in companies we once admired, in products we purchase.

And in each other.

You all know I’m a stickler for the Disciplines of Market Leadership. That we can either be Service, Value, Innovation or Thought Leaders – sometimes more than one, but never none. Now the time has come to add Trust Leader to the disciplines. You can seek the relevant differentiation that you want, and need, in becoming a Trust Leader, or if you’re looking to double in brass, make it a Thought & Trust Leader discipline.

With trust becoming endangered, give ample consideration to including it in your corporate lexicon, in your company manifesto, and as part of your revised Mission Statement. Right now, there’s nothing you can do that’s more important.

But here’s the rub. In this era of skepticism and doubt, the more you claim you’re trustworthy, the more you aren’t.  It’s like Saffron, a little goes a long way. So walk lightly with it and your footsteps will be thunderous.