Editor's letter: Trust in marketing

2020 changed everything. We all had to trust in different and new ways, and, in many cases, allow that trust to bring us closer together. We introduced colleagues to husbands, wives and kids through daily Zoom calls; helped a whole generation of students physically distanced from teachers and friends feel a sense of community; and projected a level of certainty (as “the adults”) that this year of hardship will bring a new beginning—even in the midst of so much uncertainty.

We had to trust in brands to deliver—and trust we did. The past year changed shopping forever; U.S. e-commerce sales grew more than 30% in 2020, and there’s no going back. The rules we’ve created around our physical buying spaces are blurring more than ever as everything goes online—some suggest the pandemic spurred a five-year acceleration in digital adoption. Why does one brand win versus others in this scenario? It’s all about trust.

There are now more Amazon Prime members than pet households in the U.S. We have put our trust in Amazon because it delivers on multiple fronts: convenience (through one-click buying and same-day delivery) and assortment (by having the widest variety of merchandise).

"Why does one brand win versus others? It’s all about trust."

-Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer, Epsilon

But it’s not just the big brands that can produce the level of trust needed to succeed. YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson (aka “MrBeast”) tapped into excess restaurant capacity in the pandemic and launched 300 burger joints practically overnight. MrBeast sold 1 million burgers across those 300 locations in three months. His brand is fueled by his following—tapping into a direct connection and activating it.

Why does this matter? We’re seeing disruption across all categories. As marketers, we have to beat disruption to its destination. Trust is the currency of marketing today—without it you’ll be left behind. In the latest issue of CORE, we explore the concept of trust from a number of angles:

  • Trusting in leadership. With tighter budgets in 2020, marketers had to go beyond “just trust me” and start to develop deeper organizational relationships with provable marketing returns. In “Proving results” on page 20 of the issue, we talk to four CMOs about how they market internally, advocate for their teams and prove the value of marketing. “A lot of leaders fail when they think the same team can achieve the same outcomes on totally new ideas,” says Vineet Mehra, chief growth and CX officer at Good Eggs.

  • Trusting in technology. In "Teach the machines marketing" on page 28, we talk to Steve Nowlan, senior vice president of decision sciences at Epsilon, about the proliferation of machine learning in marketing and what it really can (and can’t) do, circling back to the age-old adage that your outputs are only as good as your inputs. Nowlan puts it best, saying: “AI is more of an enabling technology that’s solving some other business problem.”

  • Trusting in brands. There’s ongoing debate about a company’s role in speaking out on social, economic and racial justice—all topics that have greatly expanded and evolved in the past year. In "The power of purpose" on page 36, we talk to marketing leaders and brands about building purpose into their fabric—because if it’s not authentic, “Consumers will instantly sniff that bulls**t out,” says Eric Levin, chief content officer at Publicis Groupe U.S. and global chief content officer of Spark Foundry.

I encourage you to dive into this issue with an open mind and willingness to learn. I trust you’ll find it worthwhile.

For all content, download the full second issue of CORE. 

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