Faking Trust

Today’s issue of The Wise Marketer suggests that corporate honesty will be the number one key alternative marketing trend for 2007. Here’s how they put it:

"While marketers are constantly watching for alternative methods that can give them a competitive edge in over-crowded markets, Drew Neisser, CEO for Renegade Marketing explained to us the ones that will rise fastest in 2007. First among Neisser’s observations in looking for the key trends for 2007 is the idea that corporate honesty will take centre-stage, helping brands and products recover from potential disasters…"

On the one hand, a plus for increased trust in the business world. Transparency, openness, honesty, etc.—can’t complain about that.

On the other hand—check the motives implicit in the way it is positioned. When honesty is portrayed as the best policy in order to achieve self-oriented goals, we have to wonder about the depth of trust implicit in the honesty we’re offered.

The Value of Honesty and Trust

Honesty—or trust, even moreso—built on nothing but contingent results doesn’t resonate with us much. If the only reason someone isn’t lying to me is that they might get caught otherwise, then I "trust" that person only insofar as the enforcement mechanisms are in place. I’ll make sure to stay out of dark alleys and private conversations with such a person, because—you never know.

Good motives have a lot to do with trust. Which is why the preferred mode of motivation these days—behavioral short term results linked to incentive compensation—rings so hollow when it comes to issues of trust. If you behave the way you do because you get more money for doing it, then I’ll only trust you so far.

Motives matter—fake it and you won’t make it.