All 4 entries tagged Trust

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June 25, 2009

MORI or Edelman?

Follow-up to Trust: Is it declining? from Schrodinger's C(h)at

According to the regular MORI poll on trust, trust remains relatively constant over time. The percentage of people claiming to trust (say) businesses remains within a + or - 2-3% margin year on year. MORI's is an absolute measure of trust - it asks people the extent to which they trust various groups and organisations.

However, the Edelman Trust Barometer, which is based on a relative measure -  the extent to which people feel they trust (say) businesses more than last year or less than last year, indicates that, in the UK, 67% of people trust companies less (global average is 62).

The Barometer also indicates that there appears to be a link between respondents' trust in businesses to 'do the right thing' and the state of the economy in their respective countries.

A further, regular trust oriented survey from Reader's Digest agrees with the MORI findings: that trust (in absolute terms) remains relatively static. They found little if any change in the extent to which we trust the various professions and in the five years of their 'trusted brand' survey, in 14 of the 20 categories, the most trusted brand has remained static. While in most categories, lower ranked brands switch places, the accolade of 'most trusted' seems to be a hard thing to shift. The categories where the 'most trusted' accolade varies most are, as might be expected, in the more volatile and dynamic markets (e.g. mobile service providers and internet service providers) and in the service markets (where the opportunity for quality variance is highest, e.g. credit cards).

For those familiar with branding research, this 'trusted brand' stability will not come as a major surprise - leading brands remain leading brands because they are leading brands (see the Double Jeopardy theory - which hypotheses that loyalty is lower in less well known brands - e.g. Martin, JAMS, 1973 or Ehrenberg, Goodhardt and Barwise, JM, 1990). And business' current obsession with branding and becoming the leading brand is one result.

Hence, is trust increasing or decreasing? And if there is a strong correlation with the stockmarket or with national economic indicators, is it then more a measure of confidence in the national economy as opposed to a true measure of trust? And is the RD measure more one of 'brand loyalty' as opposed to 'trust'?

Or is this a simple case of semantic error in which several researchers use the same term (trust) to mean different things? And even if they are all using the term trust in a valid, if different (dictionary) sense of the word, how can we (or a business) trust the trust research if the results are incomparable and incompatible?

What, exactly, is being measured?

Can all claim to be measuring trust?

To what extent are the measures 'valid and reliable' (a pre-requisite for any quantitative research)?

Is 'trust in a brand' or 'trust in a profession' a meaningful construct?

MMMMmmmm ....?

June 18, 2009

Trust: Is it declining?

When asked about whether we are a less trusting nation than we used to be, our response, typically is yes. After all, were not things always better in the 'old days'. Research (MORI) suggests otherwise (and for those interested in trust research, the MORI organisation offers a barometer of opinions via its regular studies of trust in the professions).

It appears that trust, in people like politicians and journalists, and in people in general is relatively stable over time (but then trust in politicians is low and remains low -  there isn't much room for it to fall further - and our trust in people in general (in the UK) hovers around the 50% mark).

When we are bombarded with bad news (politicians fiddling expenses, breaches of trust by businesses, failures in duty of care in social workers and hospitals, etc, etc.) it seems that we surmise that, on the whole, society is becoming less trustworthy. In reality, when making a judgement about whether things are getting better or worse, we are making assumptions about the past (of which we have but a sketchy recollection) biased by our perceptions of what is happening in the present. So the more bad news we hear the more likely we are to make an assumption that things must be getting worse, but it is just that, an assumption but one that then becomes a belief because of its constant presence.

But there is another question worth exploring. When dealing with subjects or people at arms length or being asked about professions in general, we might question whether what is being measured is trust, per se, or some measure of confidence in the professions ability to perform their function or simply their propensity to lie.

Trust, within the literature is (in short) a belief or the placing of faith in the reliability of a third party, particularly when there is an element of personal risk. Hence one might, legitimately, claim to trust ones babysitter (the downside risks do not bear thinking about), one might trust a friend with a secret and develop a level of confidence in that persons integrity and discretion, and one might trust one's own doctor based on a series of interactions. One might also trust an unknown doctor because when ill we have little choice until we have more information. But if we say we trust a profession, what are we actually saying. There is, at this level of interaction, little or no 'element of personal risk' (at least not in the short term) and hence the conceptualization of trust should differ.

This poses a question. Is the construct of trust as measured by MORI (trust in a corporate) the same construct of trust as that measured in the many research papers on trust (mostly trust in direct dyadic interactions - see trust_a_bibliography_may09.docx)?  To what extent are integrity, benevolence and credibility, Zand's (1972) three antecedents of interpersonal trust, transferrable to a conceptualisation of trust in a corporate? To what extent can we legitimately discuss the cognitive or affective form of trust in a corporate without reconceptualising the trust construct to remove the 'personal risk' factor? Or is the proximity of personal risk merely a moderator of the interaction.

If personal risk is removed, then it is no great surprise that there is little change in the perceptions of trust in corporates. What is really being measured may be an assessment of our belief in the likelihood that the average member of that profession would lie to use, a measure that might be more stable, but a measure that is not a  measure of trust.

Thoughts and comments welcome


June 10, 2009

The concept of trust

I refer here to trust in all its socially constructed manifestations, but this bloggers interests lean towards the role of trust in both an online (see Zone B) and a consumer marketing context.

Trust (or lack of it) is at the heart of any and all relationships and business transactions. The whole banking system is built on the faith and trust of its depositors and participants in the system (and the US federal reserve goes one step further - its bank notes bear the inscription "In God We Trust" ). The very existence of a bank note (or its virtual equivalent) is to permit transactions that are based on trust and that the implicit 'promise to pay' will be honoured. The present credit crunch crisis developed after a loss of faith in and trust in the financial system.


And fugu enthusiasts put their ultimate trust in the fugu chef - one unwitting slip of the knife into the poison sac during preparation and death is a high probability.

Serious research into the concept of trust emerged in the 1960's and 1970's (e.g. Zand, 1972) and occurs in many disciplines (Sociology, Psychology, Information Systems, Medicine, and, more recently, Management and Marketing) as Arnott's (2009) trust_a_bibliography_may09.docxattests.

The goal in this zone is to explore and discuss the trust construct.

Thoughts, ideas, research, pointers to articles about and examples of trust (and mistrust or distrust) are welcome.

June 05, 2009

Hi Honey! I'm Home

Well, hello world

After a year of silence from this blog (during which time no one knew whether this c(h)at existed,  inside or outside of cyberspace) the goal now is to develop some strands that will hopefully entice comment and discussion.

Intitially, the main foci for this blog will be fourfold (all relating to my own areas of research and teaching expertise and interest - well it is my blog, and I do research and teach in one of the world's leading business schools!). These strands are: The concept of trust; Online marketing; Research methods in marketing and strategy; and Marketing education.

Each strand or zone will have its own separate track and tags (q.v.)

And of course, amongst the more serious entries, there will be the ususal smattering of jokes, quotes and anecdotes, together with the occasional 'speakers corner' moments. No point in having a blog if you cannot occasionally express an opinion. But, of course, these will always be with a weather-eye on what is permissible in the globally restrictive insanity that is 'political correctness' that leads us down the road to 1984 and the thought ploice. (Pet peeve #1).

Here's hoping that you will contribute to any debates raised.


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