The Invention of Lying and the Cure

I started watching The Invention of Lying because Netflix promised me it was real popular. They wouldn’t lie about it, right? The 2009 movie builds on the premise of a world where nobody can lie or make up stories.

For example, it shows a Coke ad droning about how you should drink it because, well, they’ve been around. And a Pepsi ad which says it’s for when Coke isn’t around. Anyhoo.

Ten minutes into the movie you realize how much we take white lies and “truth avoidance” for granted. It says a lot about the human race that we are so used to lying that a world where it does not happen is the subject of a comedy.

Is your brand trustworthy?

Earlier this week I did the first part of a workshop on Persuasive Communications for a large MNC. One of the exercises was to identify the company based on this boilerplate “‘To improve the quality of life of the communities we serve globally, through long-term stakeholder value creation based on Leadership with Trust’. Everyone got the answer right! It is the Tata Group.

Wouldn’t every brand want to be trusted?

Top 5 Marketing Priorities 2020-min

A recent study on State of Marketing 2020 by Salesforce listed Trust as amongst the top 5 marketing priorities. Yet, not many consciously aim to be the ‘most trusted’ in their category. If you are buying a category for the first time, you would want to trust that brand. If you are feeding your children something, you would want to trust that product. Choosing a software product? Need to trust them to not steal your data. Educational course? Trust that it will actually get my kid that job in Google.

In the online world trust matters even more
Many of the cues that we have relied upon in the physical world are not valid online. For example, banks invest in fancy looking branches to convey that they could be trusted to hang on to your money. Stores allow physical inspection of food grains. The milkman brings his cow around and milks at your gate. Ok, used to. IT clients like to visit their suppliers to meet the people who will create their solutions.

What if you’re not Tata?
Or Mahindra, or Godrej. Can you build up a heritage of trust? In this context I found P C Musthafa of ID Foods’ “Trust Stories” really cool. Unlike most food companies that pursue positions like freshness, natural, authenticity, or organic, he has chosen Trust. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is, running “Trust Shops” in apartments and now doing trust-based deliveries to RWAs. These function like the ‘honesty shops’ we had at school where you are trusted to put money for what you have purchased in a box. ID is also planning to host videos of their manufacturing facilities as physical visits by customers are no longer possible.

What are the proxies for Trust?
3rd party endorsements by a trusted authority are one. So if you can get certifications, or a professional expert to testify for you, or win awards along your chosen attributes it helps a lot. Social proof ie your peer group being happy with that product or service is great too. And lastly all opportunities to be transparent, to prove that you have nothing to hide.

Can you monetise trust?
Of course. We know that instinctively we would prefer to go with a brand or person we trust. And we are trusted we must be really careful about how and where we apply it. We don’t want to be Tomi Lahren who has become the laughing stock of the Indian internet by calling Trump an ullu for $85 through a celebrity greetings site.

Patanjali’s doodh biscuits have just overtaken Horlicks biscuits. Oh there are many factors, but trust in Patanjali is undoubtedly one of them.

So think hard about how you are building trust in your company and in yourself as an individual.

Facebook/Whatsapp is the Internet for India
We are currently dealing with a medical crisis in the family. And whether it was getting travel organised, figuring out the rules for an e-pass, communicating with the various family members who are volunteering to support the immediate family we have relied on Facebook groups like Caremongers India (hats off to my friend and former Infosys colleague Mahita Nagaraj for setting this up) and Whatsapp groups.

India is a complex country and the best information often resides with individuals not with a process, and hence we rely on networking. Are Facebook and Whatsapp trustworthy? Your call. But if we apply our filters then they can be made fit for purpose. Personally, I find great value in gated networks where someone vouches for new joinees.

Liked this newsletter? Trust it? Then could you please forward to a trusted colleague.

Stay true!


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