Among my sources of information about the modern world is a free online newsletter called MediaDailyNews. This morning's edition featured a column by Bob Garfield, who for decades was the chief advertising critic for Advertising Age. Garfield begins this piece, titled "Too Late to Relate?" with the following paragraphs.
There's this line I sometimes use in speeches, usually during the question-and-answer period. My presentations are about the ascendency of trust in the new Relationship Era of marketing, as chaos continues to subvert the primacy of advertising and positioning.
When the lecture ends, someone from the audience inevitably raises a hand and asks: "What is the one thing above all else I should do to succeed in the Relationship Era?"
I stand on the stage, scowling a bit as I appear to be pondering the question. “The one thing, eh?” I'll say. Then, after another moment, I'll nod my head sharply and offer my considered response:
“Don't be a dick.”
The point is, he says, that what the public values in brands has changed.
As recently as 2006, Edelman Public Relations informs us, in answering what was the standard of trust, consumers most often cited “quality products and services.” By 2010, mere “quality” as a standard of brand confidence had dropped to number three in the Edelman Trust Barometer. Number one -- with 83% citing it -- was “transparent and honest practices.” Good conduct. Solid citizenship. Core values. The stuff of essential self.
A few sentences later, he adds,
Trust is composed of three elements: credibility, care and congruency. Does the brand engender public trust by delivering on its promises? Does it understand consumer needs and seek to fulfill them? Does its every action resonate with deeply held values?
It really helps when the answer to all of those questions is yes. At the moment, a number of brands are experiencing the wages of the answer “no.” BP, Netflix, Johnson & Johnson, RIM, Chick Fil A and even Apple have learned the hard way that no brand -- not even a beloved one -- is immune to the consequences when it disappoints the public.
It would be nice to think that this is true, but this anthropologist has a question for which he hopes his colleagues can help him find an answer. Both my cursory reading of primatology and my cursory reading of history suggest that being a dick is the road to success in both local pecking orders and massive social hierarchies. As Green Bay Packers (an American football team) coach Vince Lombardi once famously said, "Nice guys finish last." If this is no longer true, why isn't it true anymore? What about society and culture have changed to make being a dick the road to failure instead of the key to success?