Trust: Earned and Unearned

trust-fall1The brilliant Seth Godin (how many times have I typed that phrase?) explored the issue of trust in one of his blog posts about a year ago, and he raised a fascinating point.

All the ways that we think we — individuals or companies — need to act in order to build trust might be wrong.

They’re not wrong in the sense of creating mistrust. But they might not be very effective compared to the shorthand heuristics we actually use as consumers, voters or friends to decide whom to trust.

Why do we trust brands like Apple or Google or Evernote? Have they been so transparent, so altruistic, so consistent, so authentic that we should hand over our most sensitive data to them? Do we know enough about them in order to truly trust them? And would we even be willing to take the time to find out?

No, probably not. Our lives are just too complex, too fast-moving, and there’s too much information to evaluate. Instead we trust online reviews, Consumer Reports, MSNBC or Fox (your call), or even Seth Godin himself, to tell us the truth and help us make decisions. The world is so large and we are so small and fallible, there’s no way we can know the future or predict the kind of complex behavior of which humans and their companies are capable. So we jump off the cliff in good faith, using our best guess, and hoping we’re right.

What are the clues we use? For people, it’s body language, choice of words, a look in the eyes, a sense of the familiar. For brands, it’s product design, packaging, graphics, warranties, a voice, a website. And for both it’s referrals. Other people’s experiences are the biggest touchstones. Making sure their experiences are good ones— keeping your promises, correcting your missteps, treating people with respect — all are indicators that trust is a safe choice.

Unfortunately, charlatans know how to play us. We trust our gut instincts and sometimes those instincts are wrong. But mostly, I think humans have evolved to have pretty good bullshit detection systems. We can be suckered to a point. But if we trust our antennae, we usually head down the right path. Eventually.

Want to read more? Check out Seth’s blog.


Start with Why

Almost 2 million people have watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk on leadership called “Start with Why”, including me (several times). If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and spend 18 minutes finding out about the difference between manipulation and inspiration, and how great leaders understand that it’s not about the What. It’s about the Why.

I’m finally reading his book, and it’s enlightening and engaging. I’ll write more about it once I’ve finished it. but the core idea is nicely summarized right here. Check it out.

Beyond Cradle to Cradle: The Upcycle and the Future of Sustainable Design

When I get busy, sometimes the blog suffers. Luckily, our client Be Green Packaging has put up a great, informative post about William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s new book “The Upcycle”.

They contend that companies can and should go beyond Zero Emissions and actually develop processes that improve the environment. And they present examples of some who are doing just that!

Read more here:

Going Beyond Cradle to Cradle: The Upcycle and the Future of Sustainable Design.

Blumark brand identity launched

Blumark logoDynamic. Different. Distinctive. The new Detroit-based financial advisory group wanted to be perceived as anything but traditional. So they chose a name that would set them apart: Blumark. And they picked a marketing and public relations strategist who could help them find their voice: Sablan Communications. And Constance Sablan introduced them to FreeAssociates.

Our goal was to embody the youth, energy and vitality of the new start-up, but to temper it with a little warmth and and a lot of professionalism. In their words, “Traditional values. Innovative financial solutions.”

The crisp, clean typography says “We know what we’re doing.” The handmade brushstroke — the circular “mark” — speaks to the personal, human relationships that the partners forge with their clientele. And the single blue letter provides both focus and hook, letting the marketing team talk about how “U” are at the center of everything Blumark does.

Simple, bold and memorable, the new Blumark logo should drive the the Motor City firm’s branding efforts forward in high gear.

Could this concept solve the housing crisis?

Design thinking applies to many, many areas of our lives. The creative approach works for all kinds of problems, including economic ones.

Stever Robbins (who does the “Get It Done Guy” podcast) sent out a fascinating email quoting Kelle Sparta, a speaker, trainer and coach focused on the real estate industry. (Her new age-y vibe is not my cup of tea, but her idea seems to have real merit.)

In it, she has designed a solution for our current real estate crisis that spreads some of the financial pain among all the companies and individuals who helped create the problem in the first place, while also generating winning scenarios for property owners, banks, the government and the entire economy.

The gist? The government purchases the land under distressed properties, then leases it back to the homeowner with the right to buy it back later when they sell the home (or when they’re just more solvent). It seems to work on many levels.

Want to read more?

Creative deal structure–could it solve the housing crisis?

Design making a difference

Disaster strikes, and we think, “What can we do to help?”. The answers are “not much” and “a lot”, and often both are true at once.

T-shirt to support quake relief for Japan

CafePress is giving 100% of the profits from this t-shirt to earthquake relief in Japan

A few designers have created t-shirts whose profits will got straight to Japanese earthquake relief. This one is on CafePress, but has them, as do lots of other places on and off the internet. Each purchase is small. Each resulting donation is tiny. But the cumulative effect is huge.

As we saw in New Orleans, in Southeast Asia and in Haiti, every little bit truly does make a difference. Simply texting a small contribution (most wireless customers can automatically send $10 to the Red Cross Japanese relief efforts by texting “redcross” on their phones to 90999 — and there are lots of other options) is nearly painless, but can generate tens of millions of dollars in aid overnight.

People are powerful when they design systems that maximize their tiny contributions and turn them into real action. Congratulations to these designers, and to companies like CafePress, for taking these small steps toward a giant effort.

Green opportunities all weekend

greenlightWhat a week! I started in Boston at BAI’s annual Retail Delivery Conference and Expo (for which we’ve created the campaign and graphic theme for four years in a row — more on that in separate blog post), and ended up at the Opportunity Green conference at UCLA over the weekend.  To quote from their website, “The world can no longer afford business as usual. Opportunity Green emerged to confront this challenge and bring together the brightest innovators leading the growth of the new green economy.”

A few highlights of the conference — at least for me:

  • Hearing Adam Lowry, one of the founders of Method cleaning products (whose concept, design, copy and creativity have made me a huge fan) talk about their beginnings, what the company has learned, and where he sees the industry heading. About how a company is more of an organism than it is an organization. And how, despite all the metrics and business models, sometimes companies “just have to do something awesome.” Continue reading