Financial services has taken a battering and consumer trust is low. But before we can start to rebuild, we need to be clear on what trust actually means.

While brands traditionally have been all about awareness – people knowing who they are – closely followed by consideration – people thinking that they’d like to buy into whatever is being offered – this is no longer enough. While awareness and consideration are of course still core to business success (and often key objectives in PR and marketing communications campaigns), it’s not enough for consumers to simply know about and want your product. Consumers are increasingly looking for something deeper, while brands are seeking loyalty and ultimately advocacy. Everyone is searching for ‘brand love’.


In his book ‘Lovemarks; the future beyond brands’, Kevin Roberts, former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, proposes three elements that drive brand love:

  • Mystery: Does the brand tell a story? Does its storytelling inspire the consumer?
  • Sensuality: How is the brand experienced? Does it have its own sound; its own look and feel?
  • Intimacy: Can the consumer build an emotional relationship with the brand?


What it all boils down to is an authentic connection between the consumer and the brand. It’s more like a friendship; consumers want to ‘be around’ your brand, they like your ‘personality’ and what you stand for, and they trust you.


And it’s that little word – trust – that make so many brands come unstuck. The little word, with the big impact.


Let’s look at financial services. The industry has taken a battering in recent years with trust driven to an all-time low. We’ve had Royal Commissions, we’ve had scandal after scandal, we’ve had a revolving door of leaders. It’s an industry of constant change, with very few brands immune to the consistent negative stories that seem to arise week in week out. Is it any wonder trust is lacking?


When you have trust, which is central to a relationship and therefore to brand love, mistakes can be forgiven. And while the financial services industry (and yes, I know this may be unfairly tarring everyone with the same brush) definitely needs to pick up its game, we also need to reset our definition of trust.


In my mind there are two types of trust when it comes to financials services. There is the ‘I believe my money will be safe with you’ type of trust, which the big guys have over the fintech newcomers. Then there’s the ‘you’ll do the right thing by me’ type of trust, which I’d say the fintech guys have in spades over the big end of town.


If we boil it down to the job to be done, arguably you’d say that the first type of trust is most important. That’s what people need financial services for – to take care of their finances so they can enjoy their lives. But if we look at brand love, at loyalty and advocacy, you would say that this type of trust is no longer enough. The ‘you’ll do right by me’ trust is increasingly important and something that needs a lot of work to not only rebuild, but to maintain over the long-term. It’s only when we can truly address trust in its entirety – both aspects – that we can expect to start to see any significant shift in attitudes to the financial services industry. I’m game if you are?



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