Thought Series: 5 Practices for driving trust


Thought Series provides actionable ideas and anchors for reflection on your life or your work.


Marketing is becoming a more resource-rich function of business. Marketing is the function that creates and sustains long-lasting relationships with the most important assets of any business—the employees, customers, suppliers, and partners. Led by the guiding principles of the organization, marketing matters in every relationship. To some degree, everyone must be a marketer.

Data, digital, social, mobile, analytics, real-time agility—are all common vocabulary and the subject of numerous business articles and conversation. Thus marketers need to shift their focus from pushing messages at people to engaging them in an ongoing conversation and relationship. The speeddirection, and magnitude of the changes in marketing have been widely discussed. But no one has the answer locked up on where connection, collaboration, sharing, gifting are headed—as a means for building trust.

Leaders of values-based organizations offer a path forward since connection and quality of their relationships is how they operate.


You establish and build a community using both content and social media marketing. It can be difficult. You’re interacting with your audience constantly: fostering new relationships, nurturing existing ones, and listening/responding to feedback. You’re building trust and rapport and your social reach is growing.

These things are great for building awareness. You’re putting yourself out there and joining in the conversation. You may not think people are interested in your business and what you have to say, but guess what, they are.

All of that is important. But there is one thing to remember: Our emotions are the primary driver of our on- and offline actions.

Put It Into Practice

One way to measure healthy relationships with other people, is to think about:

  • Do you look forward to seeing that person?

  • Do you care about them?

  • Do they share your values?

  • Do you speak well of them to others?

…because these questions apply to companies as well. See more about the science of emotions in marketing.


Collaboration is one of those words, like innovation or execution, that sometimes loses its meaning in a management context because it is overused. We know we need to work together better. We know we can all get along, and that more heads on an issue make for better solutions. Yet it’s also one of those behaviors that many companies hope will just happen. They think, “let’s put a bunch of good, motivated people together and the collaboration will take place, right?” It’s not that easy — leaders must create conditions in which collaboration is inevitable. And everyone in that environment needs to make a conscious choice to learn from others.

Put It Into Practice

  • What should we make?

  • Who should we make it for?

  • How do we make it in such a way that the story of our product is true?


We all want to feel that our lives have meaning. We gravitate towards brands that help us find that meaning. Apple’s “Think different” or Nike’s “Just do it” represent challenges we can bring into our personal lives. It could be an allusion to our common humanity like Skype’s family portrait series, which illustrated the growth of a long-distance friendship between two girls, each missing an arm. Or it could be a global call to action like Wal-Mart’s sustainable supply chain initiative. Each of these companies built an engaged audience by finding a big, ambitious theme and building a long-running campaign around it. Each also experienced sustained growth.

Put It Into Practice

  • How can you improve people’s lives?

  • How can you develop others?

  • How can you invest in your community?


As Bill Gates said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

I think the same is true with Agile. Agile was originally promoted as a “movement” over a decade ago.  Like many new ideas, Agile adoption was slow to start and quick to dominate. From the looks of the marketplace, it looks like Agile has finally hit its stride.

As recently as five years ago, most marketing departments were set up only to conduct campaigns and launches. That is changing, especially at larger companies with large numbers of customers. It is not the old mode of planning a campaign, executing it, analyzing the results, learning from them and applying those lessons to next year’s campaign. Marketers are increasingly running a real-time dialogue, constantly listening and instantly connecting in relevant ways. Consumers have an expectation of immediacy.

A 24/7 mentality requires a different way of working. The industrial model assembly line is gone. Now, open space provides a kind of trading room floor, responds to the ebbs and flows of the market as they occur. Although disciplines experience the larger product launches, it is the day-in and day-out efforts of relationship building with employees, customers, suppliers, and partners who in return reward you with a supportive ecosystem of brand loyalty and a steady stream of purchases.

Put It Into Practice

  • Does the experiment have a clear purpose?

  • Have stakeholders made a commitment to abide by the results?

  • Is the experiment doable?

  • How can we ensure reliable results?

  • Have we gotten the most value out of the experiment?

Although those questions seem obvious, many companies begin conducting tests without fully addressing them.


Unilever Senior Vice-president of Marketing Marc Mathieu likes to say that marketing “used to be about creating a myth and selling it and is now about finding a truth and sharing it.” It is difficult to sustain myths these days; with a few clicks of the mouse, anyone can discover almost anything and instantly circulate it to an audience of millions. Companies confident enough to share the truth are choosing to participate in a web-enabled show and tell— and consumers, employees, suppliers, and partners appreciate it.

Transparency is appealing because you can’t really connect with someone unless there’s some level of transparency. We seek transparency from organizations because we do business in a culture that is characterized by social transparency. Yet, we do business in a culture that has experienced the erosion of privacy.

Put It Into Practice

  • What do you see as the relationship between transparency and generosity?

  • Can you point to examples where transparency made a difference?

  • What steps do you feel you can take to increase transparency? (about what you do, what your group does, what your organization does)