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Ryan E. Day

Quality Insider

Trust As a Marketing Commodity

How can I trust ’em if they won’t be sneaky?

Published: Saturday, June 29, 2013 - 14:19

They did it again—ruined my scoop.  I pride myself on what I consider a natural ability to read between the lines and then find information and facts to fill in that void. Like the void created when companies wax verbose about some altruistic subject like “trust,” but keep mum on their motivation for publicly broaching the subject in the first place. So what am I to think when they just won’t be sneaky?

Last year Ford Motor Co. invited me to attend its 2012 trend conference. I thought I’d figured out its true motivation for inviting so many “social media types” as a covert attempt to exploit the expanding reach of the social media platform. I was crushed when Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, openly confirmed that motivation and went on to explain to me the virtues and effectiveness of this tactic as a service to readers. You can read about my ensuing meal of crow here.

Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman, Ford Motor Co. engaging in lively Q&A at the trend confereence 2013. Photo credit: Ryan E. Day

Although Ford was gracious enough to invite me back for this year’s trend conference despite my faux pas, I couldn’t resist "faux pas part deux." All attendees were provided with the booklet, Looking Further With Ford: 13 Trends for 2013, and it was right there in the first chapter of the first trend, for crying out loud: “Trust Is the New Black.” My exposé senses tingled as I read the first sentence: “If trust were bottled as wine, the vintages of recent years would be bitter and scarce.”

Trend No. 2, “Consumer Republic” dovetailed: “One clear trend emerging from the Trust Bust is that consumers can hold corporations accountable by taking action into their own hands.”

Being a quick study in spotting emerging trends, I easily coupled trends one and two with trend No. 13, titled “Post-Green.”

It was no big trick for me to deduce that Ford’s marketing masterminds intended to introduce these topics to consumers, position themselves favorably in those terms, thus differentiating the company from its competition, and gaining what could only be described as “a new form of competitive advantage.” Elementary really, and very clever. But I was on to them and would not be silent.

But they did it again. They unscooped my scoop. Those unscrupulous thunder stealers stood up in front of God, media, and everybody and proclaimed out loud that companies across the globe could differentiate from the competition by operating in an open, fair, honest, and ecologically sound manner, thus gaining “a new form of competitive advantage” in their own particular market. Elementary really, and very clever.

“Weary of misinformation, people are reappraising their relationships with companies and brands, making integrity a new form of competitive advantage,” the booklet further disclosed. “In a marketing sense, trust seems very basic and not very innovative. But the fundamentals of a customer’s experience—across product performance, innovation, customer service, and perceived quality—all ladder up to trust. More important than ever to building brand equity and differentiation, trust has become a precious commodity, and its limited supply in the marketplace has stimulated consumer demand.”

“We were able to relate pricing power to strong favorable opinion,” says Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co., group vice president, global marketing, sales. Photo credit: Ryan E. Day


Wesley Sherwood, Ford Motor Co., communications manager. Photo credit: Ryan E. Day

Actually, Ford is answering a question I’ve been asking for years: Product quality and pricing aside, aren’t ethical conduct and environmentally sound production methods just good business sense?

It seems to me that any introspective company leader would view consumer trust as a positive influence on the company’s longevity. Avoiding material waste increases profitability. Ethical conduct minimizes legal risk. And if companies are savvy enough to use good behavior and sound ethics as a marketing tool, I say bully for them.

Disclosure: As an auto enthusiast, yes, I do love the Big Blue Oval.

However, as a human being I am fairly skeptical. Cynical even. Trust is hard-earned over a long period of time. It appears that Ford’s leaders have come to the same conclusions I have, and by all appearances have taken these ideas to heart. That makes me happy, but I will keep a sharp eye open and continue to ask as many questions as I can and dig as deep as they will allow.

Stay tuned for further reports.


About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s project manager and senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20 lb tabby cat at his side.


Grammatical faux pas

Good article, but I was briefly distracted by the phrase "when companies wax verbosely".  The verb "wax" in this context is a linking verb (like "is", "are", "was", "were", etc.) and as such takes an adjective, not an adverb.  The most common manifestation if this error is when people say "I feel badly...".

"Waxing Verbosely"

Thank you for your comment, I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Good catch on the grammer. I hate to admit it, but I am guilty, quite often, of taking linguistic license in my efforts to engage readers and retain my own voice. Our editors try to keep me reigned in as much as possible, but...de sculpa. Please feel free to peruse my other works here in QD and correct me at will. It helps me to improve. Thanks again and enjoy—Ryan E. Day

E Pluribus Unum

What or whoever we should trust in - be it an invitation or a warning, or a wishful desire - is coined or printed on MONEY. It's high time we grown-ups should stop looking at glazing & blazing pretended-to-be-new as to Eldorados: on june 29th, we Catholics celebrate both Saints, Peter and Paul. Two very different symbols of interpreting humanity, both communicating Trust, both communicating honesty. Thank you.