Tag Archives: trust

Humanizing B2B

Here’s a surprising fact. At some point between the 1970s and the 1990s, the venerable AT&T brand reputation transitioned among certain audiences from “Ma Bell”… to “the death star.” Something similar transpired for Microsoft, which became widely known as “the evil empire“.

I’m not a corporate historian, but I know it has not been uncommon in recent years for large, public companies to find themselves similarly demonized. Think Enron collapse, Nike sweatshops, BP oil spill. Why?… generally it ties back to perceptions of company greed, thoughtlessness or incompetence. Regardless of ultimate culpability, our impressions are tightly linked to judgments about human motives underlying company behavior.

Enter the science of corporate reputation management and brand/messaging strategies designed to signal that company motives are pure, particularly B2B companies which are one step removed from public view. Here’s a sampling of recent B2B advertising in which employee voice-overs are used to create a softer, gentler company feel:

  • IBM – “Let’s build a smarter planet.”
  • Siemens – “No question is too tough for us to answer.”
  • FedEx – “Solutions that matter.”
  • Dow – “Together, the elements of science and the human element can solve anything.”

Heightened expectations for corporate social responsibility, combined with increased public transparency (internet, social media, 24/7 news cycles) have accelerated the race to put a human face on large B2B enterprises. But working to humanize the company in the eyes of stakeholder audiences has value beyond simply defending reputation. It signals the existence of a higher business purpose, one that can guide employees to do the right thing, help partners to engage in a spirit of true collaboration, and inspire customers/prospects to trust not only the product itself, but the intentions behind it. And trust is the glue in great long-term customer relationships.

Moral of the story here – if you are engaged in B2B business communications … be human, build trust, inspire custom.

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Filed under Brand Voice, Risk Management, Sense of community

Doing The Right Thing

Here’s an interesting concept – “The things you do when no one is looking define you.”

I recently ran across this idea in a Chrysler ad emphasizing that the company doesn’t cut corners on quality on the sly. They do the right thing, and they do it with care and intentionality. Think of US Airways flight 1549 and the heroic pilot who saved the day by successfully landing his crippled plane in the Hudson river. Then watch the video to see what he really did when no one was looking. It’s impressive.

Moral of the story- people like brands and companies that do the right thing. It’s the foundation of trust, and it’s rewarded by emotional and behavioral loyalty.

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Filed under Risk Management

Inside Jokes

Our 9th president, William Henry Harrison, won by a landslide in 1840. His campaign was the first-ever to use a campaign slogan – “Tippycanoe and Tyler Too.” There were buttons, posters, pamphlets, songs and copious mud slinging on both sides, just like the modern campaigns we know and love today. But here’s that fascinating part – it was an inside joke that propelled him to office.

Opposition newspapers accused him of being too old for the presidency and suggested, “Give him a barrel of hard cider and … a pension … and he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin.” Harrison realized this was an insult to the majority of voters and he gleefully transformed this slur into an inside joke. He poked endless fun at the “patrician snobs” sitting in Washington who drank fine wine while honest men drank cider. His team organized “log cabin raising” events in most major cities to rally the agrarian base. And his entourage shared barrels of hard cider at every speech and whistle-stop. He won by a landslide.

Moral of the story – be as one with your base. Build trust with stakeholders by demonstrating you are “of the tribe” through thought, word, action, and humor!

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Filed under Sense of community