“Somebody blundered and the most expensive orgy in history was over,” quoted Tesco Bank Chief Executive Benny Higgins from Fitzerald’s “Echoes of the Jazz Age” addressing the question of trust at our Club evening earlier this week.

Quizzed and moderated by Suki Thompson, our panel of charismatic business leaders Benny; Alistair Macrow, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, McDonald’s; Johnny Hornby, Founder,The&Partnership; and Steve Parish, Chairman, Crystal Palace Football Club, opened up their private and personal views on trust and brands – much to the delight of the 250-strong audience. With no questions barred – the debate ranged from horsemeat, to bad bankers, to what it’s really like to be Chairman of a Premier League football club. According to Tweegle, the event was the third highest trend in London that evening.

One universal truth shone through: trust means authenticity. Simple. It comes from leadership. It comes from culture. It has to be earned through behaviour. Benny pointed to two measures of trust: transactional trust (do you get what you’re promised?) and effective trust (does this company put your interests first?). Asked what made Tesco best when it was at its best? Benny said: “when it put the customer before P&L.”

Alistair expanded: “When customers trust they want to believe what you tell them. They want to believe good things about the brand.” Alistair shared lessons learnt when McDonald’s rebuilt trust. “Fundamentally we got closer to customers, found out what was going wrong and put it right. We knew we couldn’t market ourselves out of this.”  McDonald’s serves 35 million people every day and is now trusted by twice as many people it was seven years ago.

Fans may argue that the ultimate trust is that between fans and their clubs. Asked about his role as Crystal Palace Chairman, Steve said that trust in football is stripped bare when you’re the owner. “We live in a world of cynicism. You must be what you say you are. You can’t act it. You’ll be found out.”

On advertising and trust

There was further consensus and much nodding of heads in agreement when Johnny coined one of the most-tweeted comments of the evening; “You earn trust through behaviour not through communications. Your communications should point to your behaviour.” Alistair added that it would be wrong to expect people to trust the advertising, rather, you should expect them to trust the brand behind it. Benny agreed, “Good advertising has to reflect the essence of what you stand for.”

The panel names the brands they trust [beyond their own of course!]

Netflix (Steve); Ocado (Johnny); Spotify (Benny); small neighbourhood wine shop (Alistair)

And finally… we asked some of our guests for their views…

The panel corroborated a lot of things that Contagious has been saying for years around the concept of trust and consumer-centric thinking. Johnny Hornby got to the heart of how brands are to stand any chance of flourishing in a transparent, hyper-connected world when he advised, “Don’t crave trust through communications; earn it through behaviour.” And Tesco Bank’s Benny Higgins absolutely nailed it when he acknowledged the long-term business benefits of being brave enough to “put the customer before the P&L.” Brands stand to gain greater trust and higher levels of engagement by providing useful services and solving pain-points in the customer journey rather than bombarding them with traditional marketing messages.

Paul Kemp-Robertson, co-founder / Contagious Communications

“Great food for thought. Great food for thought. The role of marketing and advertising is simply to point to trusted behaviour.  .  Personally, however, I think football clubs are different – a true fan will continue to support their team however badly they perform whereas a customer of McDonald’s or Tesco Bank will simply go somewhere else.”

Hilary Cross, Director External Affairs, Macmillan Cancer Support.

You can watch the 3 min edit of the evening here

A great big thank you to our great panellists and to all our guests for making our evening such a success. Our next event “Marketing Models” with Abi Comber, Head of Brand and Marketing, British Airways,  is on 15th July. Please contact Victoria Sinclair victoria@theoystercatchers.com if you are interested in attending.

About the Oystercatchers Club

The Oystercatchers Club is a forum where senior marketers and agency heads get together to share knowledge and are inspired by topical and relevant debates. The forum is invite only. Please contact Victoria (victoria@theoystercatchers.com) if you would like to hear more about it.

What members are saying about the Club:

“These Club evenings are a fantastic way to catch up with friends and contemporaries in the business and to keep your finger on the marketing pulse.” – Nigel Gilbert – Key Projects, Virgin Management Limited

“I joined the club because it was a group of leaders from clients and agencies, who are all looking to shape the industry’s future by an exchange of ideas and personal lessons. I love the camaraderie and sharing and importantly the community and it keeps me coming back.” – Nigel Vaz, Senior Vice President Managing Director Europe, SapientNitro