The Trust Imperative

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  • Glen L. Urban

Published 2003, "The Trust Imperative", Working Paper, MIT Sloan School of Management, 2003-


  • Nearly 70% of Americans agree with the statement, "I don't know whom to trust anymore," according to a February 2002 Golin/Harris Poll. Although trust in society and corporations seems to be at an all time low, now is a good time for businesses to embark on a trust-based marketing strategy. Increasing customer power will drive a new paradigm for marketing, a paradigm based on advocating for the customer by providing open, honest information and advice. At the same time, this customer power is reducing the effectiveness of old-style push-based marketing. Thus, the shift to trust-based marketing may be more of a mandatory imperative than an optional opportunity. Trust-based marketing involves much more than dropping millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads that say "trust us." Instead, it is an approach to marketing that shifts and deepens the relationship between a company and its customers. Rather than bombarding passive customers, a trust-based strategy creates a positive relationship with an increasingly loyal customer base. Trust-based marketing contrasts with traditional push-based marketing in the assumptions that it makes about customer. The old paradigm of push-based marketing assumed that customers did not know what was good for them. Under this old assumption, companies broadcast their hype to push products and services onto an ignorant customer base. The goal was to "push" products onto customers. This contrast between push-based marketing and trust-based marketing parallels McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y.