Howard Schultz talks a lot about trust…

I just had the unique opportunity (I say unique because only 300 or so of us tuned in) to hear Howard Schultz on a webcast this morning because I bought an advance copy of his new book, “Onward“.  I have not had a chance to read the book yet (too many papers to grade!), but did not want to miss the opportunity to hear Howard (virtually) in person.

Here are a few tidbits I picked up from him.

1) The reason those baristas are all so happy is that their goal is to enhance someone’s day.  What a great goal.

2) His biggest challenge: Getting big as a company, but staying small.  Even though there are over 200,000 employees, he wants them all to understand and know the Starbucks’ culture and feel like it is a small, intimate culture.

3) The reason Starbucks can successfully implement something new like mobile payments: they have their customer’s trust.

4) He feels that companies should embrace digital technologies and marketing not to sell, but to build trust and confidence with customers and to demonstrate transparency.

5) Customers want to buy from companies whose values are like their own, so customers will buy from Starbucks because they appreciate that Starbucks gives their employees health benefits and that they buy coffee beans at a fair price.  This also builds trust with customers.

Can’t wait to read the book–probably while I’m drinking my grande decaf nonfat no-whip mocha!


Trust an academic? Who would have thought?!

The annual Edelman Trust Barometer is out, and while it will take us awhile to wade through the entire thing (it is definitely worth your time), I thought I’d share one interesting nugget: An academic turns out to be one of the most credible sources of information about a company from the public’s perspective. (Click the image for a higher-res picture.)

This means that when someone is looking for information about a company, compared to a CEO or someone else inside the company, academics fare the best in terms of being a credible or trusted expert.

It used to be that we trusted each other more than we trusted advertisers, CEOs or even academics.  Now, however, we have less trust in each other.  Steve Rubel, SVP of Edelman, wonders if it is because we have become too familiar with each other on Facebook.  That would mean that we don’t trust the many friends we are trying to accumulate?

How do you feel about this?  Do you trust someone like yourself more or less than a year ago?  Do you trust academics?  CEOs?


Here’s another nugget, courtesy of Karen’s assistant, Aneil:

What is wrong with this picture?

As I’m reading Real Simple magazine this month, I’m looking at a feature they have each month where they demonstrate how one outfit can look good on two different generations.

As a loyal Talbot’s customer for many years (since getting my M.B.A. at Michigan, actually), I’m appalled that the current VP for Public Relations for Talbot’s is posing in non-Talbot’s clothing in an article that features clothing!

While Talbot’s may not have a skirt in their catalog quite this short (here is the shortest one I could find), the VP could have come up with another trend that Talbot’s currently sells in their store in order to highlight the clothing that she helps her company sell.

If I am the VP of Public Relations for Talbot’s, my goal is to sell Talbot’s all the time no matter what I am doing.  She has flunked the competence aspect of being trustworthy here, in my opinion.  When I was an intern at Jacobson’s Stores in Jackson, Michigan (which is no longer in business), we all wore clothes from Jacobson’s.  We got a great discount, loved the clothing, and knew that we were ambassadors for the store.  I guess no one told Meredith and Jessica that their job is to do more than just “write” nice things about Talbot’s.  Even the saleswomen at my local Talbot’s store know to wear Talbot’s clothing because they represent the brand.


Closing the space…

The semester is over at MSU, but I just had to brag about my students in my large 130-person integrated strategy class.  It was hard to know if I was actually teaching them anything since there were so many of them and they were so distant, both in physical and emotional space.  One student commented that they like large classes because they like to be anonymous.  What they don’t know is that I don’t like teaching large classes because I don’t want them to be anonymous–that is not why I left the corporate world for teaching–I want to know them and whether or not what I am teaching them actually makes any difference to them in their learning and in their life.

Well, watch this commercial that one group created (which was above and beyond the project requirement) and let me know whether or not they learned anything this semester.


GM Repays its Loans Early, Oops, No it Didn’t!

The title of the article from Brand Channel says its all:  GM Loses  Trust After Payback Claim.

GM executives are being rightly scored – from Capitol Hill to Madison Avenue – for public statements and a new advertising campaign, both featuring CEO Ed Whitacre, that imply the company has repaid its obligation to the U.S. government and to the American people. Or at least that could be inferred as doing so.

The ads on all major TV networks have been noting that the company repaid its original $6.7-billion U.S.-government loan “in full” and “with interest five years ahead of the original schedule,” as Whitacre walks through a GM plant.

One problem with such a hopeful narrative, of course, is that GM simply repaid the loan with another part of its proceeds from the government bailout, robbing Peter to pay Paul, as it were – or maybe robbing Nancy to pay Barack. Whitacre didn’t mention that in the ads.

From a company that has the lost the trust of the American buying public, and now the American taxpayer, in so many ways, this is not how to start rebuilding trust.


Journalists Say Financial Services Companies Need to Rebuild Trust and Overcome Credibility Gap

My friend and Princeton classmate Bill Haynes and his firm BackBay Communications, in partnership with Marketwire, have just conducted a survey of financial journalists that examines the reputation of financial firms.  They have found that the industry’s reputation has slipped further over the last year.  This second annual BackBay-Marketwire Financial Services Reputation Survey found that although last year reporters were focused on the problems financial institutions were having communicating effectively during the depths of the financial crisis, this year’s results reveal the extent to which trust has been lost and needs to be rebuilt.  I’ve provided an excerpt below.  Click here for a news release on the survey.


Financial Services Firms’ Reputations and PR Challenges Explored in Second Annual BackBay Communications and Marketwire Survey

Journalists Say Financial Services Companies Need to Rebuild Trust and Overcome Credibility Gap

BOSTON, March 17, 2010 – Financial journalists say the finance industry’s reputation has declined over the last year and financial services firms need to overcome a credibility gap with their constituents by being more honest and demonstrating they have customers’ interests in mind, according to the second annual BackBay-Marketwire Financial Services Reputation Survey.

Of the 107 journalists polled, 83% said the reputation of the financial services sector has declined over the past year, with 59% saying it has declined significantly, and 24% saying it has declined slightly.  Reporters blame the decline on the taxpayer bailout of banks and the bonuses paid to Wall Street executives.

The survey by BackBay Communications, a strategic marketing and public relations firm focused on the financial services industry, and Marketwire, a full-service newswire and communications workflow solutions provider, was conducted from January 15 to February 8, 2010.

Superbowl Ads a bust…

Superbowl Sunday is my favorite time of year, because I teach advertising and I love to watch the ads.  This year, I watched the game more than usual because the ads were nothing to write home about.  There were a couple, however, that caught my eye.

My favorite ad overall was the Snickers ad with Betty White.  Probably because I love anything with Betty White, but it was humorous and told the message of how “you’re not you without snickers.”

I also enjoyed the Google search ad for Paris, ending with a search for a crib.  It told a love story in 52 seconds, reminding us why we need Google in our life.  Very effective.

I did enjoy the Dave, Oprah and Leno bit, even though none of them are my favorite people.  Whoever thought this up was pretty savvy about lightening the late night tension.

As a NY Times reporter mentioned today, none of these ads were very daring, which I find surprising considering the price tag of $2.5-$3 million for a 30-second spot.  At this price, and with this audience, it is your opportunity to say something big and amazing, not something safe.  In addition, CBS spend a lot of time selling us their programs, which is not what I was hoping to see.


Amazon and Twitter Both Have a Ways to Go to Earn Back Our Trust

Full disclosure:  we are regularly consumers of the wares available on, and I did have a Twitter account, if only briefly.   Now that I’ve dispensed with the required information, let me way that both Amazon and Twitter can learn a lot from the Amazon’s recent debacle with its book sales rankings.  While Twitterers tweeted about Amazon’s alleged anti-gay slant in its rankings mistakes, the Twitter medium also abetted if not encouraged people to post spurious information:

Over the weekend, Amazon faced a Twitter-driven storm of criticism after gay-themed books disappeared from its sales rankings, leading to accusations of bigotry and censorship. Somewhere along the way, a hacker claimed responsibility for the incident and posted a description of how he did it. Pretty quickly the claims were reverberating through the Twittersphere, where plenty of people, though by no means all, took the claims at face value.

“Not surprised that hacker may behind #AmazonFail but really surprised that Amazon has botched the PR end of this debacle and still silent,” tweeted ShawnDC.

I talked to several security experts on Monday who cast doubts on the hacker’s claims. “This is a hoax,” said Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer of BT. “It makes no sense.” Paul Kocher, president and chief scientist of Cryptography Research, a computer security company in San Francisco, said: “The script examples wouldn’t (even if they worked as claimed) do anything of any sophistication.”

At a minimum, information must be true and not misleading if it is to engender our trust.  I’ve already bagged Twitter as a waste of my time because I couldn’t care less about most people’s tweets, and now have even less reason to use information from that channel.  I’ll start buying more of my books elsewhere, too, if I can’t trust Amazon to provide me with accurate information. A


Is it the recession fair game in advertising?

News14Carolina asked me this question the other day–you can see my interview here.  They heard about the new offer from Ford and GM to pay your car payment if you lose your job and wondered if this was an appropriate way to talk to consumers at this tight economic time.  Hyundai made this offer last year, ahead of the curve and seems to be faring well because of it.

So, is it sincere of these companies to appeal to our fear and try to provide us with confidence in the future?

You can hear what I said, but here’s the gist–in my study of how companies build trust through open and honest communication, I found that those who were able to seem reliable and honest were able to build trust, and ultimately, corporate loyalty.  So, if these companies can help us when we need them, we will be there for them in the long-run.

Do you agree?