Comment: Live your values, don't just say them

Dan Salkey discusses the power of honest digital marketing campaigns and why it's vital to gain your customers' trust.

Dan Salkey is the co-founder of Small World, an on-demand marketing agency based in the UK.

Fraudsters Billy McFarland and Anna Sorokin, and Russian president Vladimir Putin – what do all three have in common? 

No, it's not Bill and Vlad's penchant for preposterous Bahamas-based festivals. Or Sorokin and Putin's shared Slavic heritage. It's their delusions of grandeur, which led them to wrap followers, friends, nations and the world in increasingly bigger lies that fell apart to devastating effect. They all violated our trust as a society and left us feeling outraged for the victims. If you're like me, they've captivated your attention in the same way a burning building does. Only, in the case of Putin, the burning building is a nation – my own, Ukraine. 

We've become obsessed with modern-day con artists, from online dating conman the Tinder Swindler to the Madbird design agency. It seems like another ‘fake it till you get caught’ story is always just around the corner. It makes for great entertainment and Netflix will be hoping it continues but, for people like you and me, it's made us increasingly skeptical about every piece of information we consume. We live in a trustless society. 

Gone are the days when you'd let your kids roam the block, mall or even the web free unsupervised. Door-to-door salesmen used to run rampant and we'd happily hear their pitches; now, we send emails from unknown senders straight to junk before reading.

For brands on digital media channels in particular, the ability to create trust with people is at an all-time low. Apple's iOS 15 update, which introduced extra privacy protection, was a signal to brands worldwide: people are fed up with having their trust abused. This is a new world. We choose when, how and where you can speak to us. So, where am I heading with this? Well, it's the start of a conversation on how you, as a brand owner, can be trusted more, not less. It's pretty simple really. There's a reason we say actions speak louder than words. Brands should heed that same advice. 

A practical way of doing this is splitting your marketing budget in two. Half is a ‘saying’ budget: use that on traditional comms – buy Facebook ads and book media space. The other half is where the magic happens – your ‘doing’ budget. Use that to show people why they can trust what you say. 

All well and good, but how do you do that? Well, I could give you 100 case studies to pore over, but I need only one: Dove. In 2004, the personal care brand released a series of ads that ‘said’ what it needed to say. The trust it built with women came in what it ‘did’: the Dove Real Beauty Pledge is the only thing you need to read to know how to be trusted as a brand. By featuring only ‘real’ women in its ads and promising not to digitally alter any images used in advertising, it showed, rather than told, women that it could be trusted. 

So, in a world of brands whispering sweet nothings to take our money, love and dignity, be the brand that proves value with actions. Do, don't say. 

This article was first published in Courier issue 48, August/September 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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