Scandal, scandal, scandal. Security breaches, data hoarding and ethical ambiguity – if the likes of Apple, Snapchat and Sony are anything to go by in terms of trust in technology, they certainly didn’t do SMEs and entrepreneurs any favours in 2014.
Last week, a report highlighted that Brits’ trust in technology had substantially dipped in the last year. Consumer electronics and telecoms, in particular, both took a tumble, and now, as other countries enthusiastically steam ahead with innovation, Brits’ trust (or lack thereof) in tech is significantly impeding our progression towards a connected future.
So what can tech companies do to reassure British consumers? Here are our top three tips to inspire, maintain, or, in some cases, rebuild trust in your tech brand.
Data and Security
After numerous high profile data hacks and security breaches in 2014, consumers are understandably concerned about how their details are mined, managed and manipulated. For tech brands, ensuring you are plain and transparent with your use, storage and trading of data is vital to allay the fears stoked by these incidents and strengthen that all-important consumer trust.
Only a couple of months ago, MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee were compelled to call for new guidelines for apps and websites, requiring them to explain clearly their use of personal data. Increasingly, regulation is making it difficult for technology to evolve, so instead of waiting for more guidelines and possibly laws to be introduced, why not prove to society that tech brands can be responsible, transparent and effectively self-regulate? As Andrew Miller, chair of the committee, noted: “Socially responsible companies wouldn’t want to bamboozle their users”.
Quality and Safety
Technology as a topic can often seem inaccessible – after all, there’s a lot of jargon and few people understand how software and hardware is actually built. So when there are rapid developments, it almost appears too good to be true, leaving some sceptical and mistrusting consumers questioning the validity of research and the quality of the design of a product.
In fact, nearly half of UK consumers believe that innovation is happening too quickly – but then, it’s not in the best interests of tech developers to slam on the brakes. Instead, it’s vital that tech companies address these concerns directly, by allowing people to trial and test their capabilities. Demonstrating quality by offering your product for high profile reviews is a good way of gaining advocacy from trusted, independent parties.
Positioning your company as experts in a relevant field – through thought leadership pieces and interviews – will also reassure consumers that the same intelligence and conscientiousness has been baked into your product or service.
Perhaps one of the most surprising snippets to come out of the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show 2015 earlier this month was an admission from Gary Shapiro, CEO of the event. He acknowledged that over-reliance on digital products is a “Natural trend that people are talking about”, and that he believes in the good of “everything, in reason.”
A digital detox, it seems, may well be on the horizon – and tech companies must be prepared. Consumers mistrust products and brands that serve no true purpose, or that bombard them with so many that they can’t discern what the product is really for. So decide what problem you want to solve and where your niche lies, instead of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. Less is more – or, in the immortal words of Coco Chanel, “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.”
In your communications, tech brands should ensure that the value your product adds to the market is conveyed clearly and consistently. If consumers can see how your product will save them time, bring them new information or simply entertain them, trust in your brand will strengthen. That one must-have feature of your offering should shine through: purpose over puff.
As we move forward into 2015, it seems that innovation is no longer enough. Trust in your tech brand must be built upon a foundation of transparency, independent advocacy and clear communications – only then will Brits embrace the advances you have nurtured. How will trust in your brand fare this year?
Fame is a transient construct. You can never get too comfortable in the world of showbiz. One minute you’re at the top of your game…a critically lauded album at Number one, a movie dominating the international film charts, a tour that’s filling stadia all over the world…but all it takes is one flippant, off the cuff remark, one poorly thought out comment to create a ripple effect that changes the tide of public perception.
In a split second, you can fall from hero to zero and the media turns from once ‘making you’ to now ‘breaking you’.
We’re all human, we’re all guilty of making impulsive remarks and this is why the wisest of celebrities grasp the importance of retaining clued-up PR and crisis management advisors. So when their own actions engender a negative, critical response, their media advisors can tailor an appropriate mea culpa and create lots of new positive press to displace the negative that’s doing the rounds.
As we ease ourselves into 2015, I wanted to reflect on five high profile individuals whom I feel could benefit from a spot of attitude adjustment in the New Year. Individuals with real talent and something to offer who could win over a lot more people if they simply warrant a little more thought to the words they put out there.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Queen of Thursday Night US TV Shonda Rhymes made a telling remark. Referring to the most watched drama on US network TV at the moment, she commented that “there are no Heigls” allowed on the set of Scandal. A reference to Katherine Heigl, who starred in Rhymes’ first TV smash, Grey’s Anatomy.
A landmark character back in the early days, speculation was rife when Heigl left the show. Was her refusal to throw her name in the hat for Emmy consideration interpreted as a negative indictment of the material she was given on the show? Or did she think she was too big for the small screen now her movie career was skyrocketing? Heigl’s negative image, however, escalated incrementally after a highly publicised interview with Vanity Fair, in which she talked about the movie Knocked Up.
Widely considered to be the film that propelled her to A-List status and an A-List salary, Heigl branded the movie “a little sexist”, claiming that the film “paints the women as shrews, as humourless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys”.
Heigl’s comments catalysed a media storm with people attacking her for seemingly biting the hand that feeds her. But, for every mistake, there is a potential for growth, and Heigl responded very graciously to the recent Rhymes interview, expressing her hope that she can change the acclaimed producer’s opinion of her.
Back on TV with new NBC espionage thriller State of Affairs, Heigl is clearly an intelligent, gifted and highly capable actor and producer. She just needs to choose her words more carefully so she doesn’t alienate future employers!
I think people USED to think that Shia LaBeouf was pretty well adjusted for a former child star. And the Hollywood studios certainly approved his transition to leading man status when his movies began to open at number 1 at the box office. Lately though, the strange behaviour has proven a little hard to ignore. Stepping out in public with a bag over his head scribed with the words ‘I am not famous anymore’, prompted many to question what the hell was going on.
Then there were plagiarism accusations and most recently he interrupted a performance of Cabaret by smoking, shouting at the cast and patting star Alan Cumming on the backside! When the police were called, LaBeouf allegedly shouted, “F#!* you…This is f#!*#!*bulls#!* Do you know my life? Do you know who the f#!* I am?”.
Behaviour like this will catalyse m,. the big studios into thinking you’re a liability…and if you’re perceived as a liability in Hollywood, your job prospects will suffer. A bit of time out to recalibrate will certainly do LaBeouf the world of good right now.
I love Reese Witherspoon, I really do, she’s a fine actor, she has masterfully immortalised some cracking characters on the silver screen in the past and Gone Girl proved that she has a formidable talent for producing really compelling material. But…I can’t help but think that the quality and the integrity of the roles she has taken on in the last couple of years have been somewhat questionable.
The association that I’m making is that ever since she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for getting belligerent with the arresting officer, the movies she has starred in seem to be less talked about. Questioning the authority of the police officer wasn’t a smart move, but asking him if he knew who she was!? A major celebrity faux-pas that comes across as insanely obnoxious. Reese apologised for her conduct but at the end of the day, a celebrity is a brand and the incident certainly damaged her brand perception. If celebs want to be top of the list when it comes to edgy, innovative and challenging scripts that are sent out by the studios, a little humility goes a long way!
You’ve got to laugh at Kanye West, he comes up with some classic one-liners: “I am God’s vessel. But my greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.” (VH1Storytellers); “I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph.” (Reuters); “And the thing is, for me to say I wasn’t a genius, I would just be lying to you and to myself.” (Jimmy Kimmel Live).
Up until fairly recently, Kanye has always been able to justify the egotism because of the quality of his music. But the combination of a heavily-flaunted marriage with Kim Kardashian and an ever-increasing arrogance and lack of modesty may have taken its toll on the fans’ patience. The last studio album, Yeezus, in my opinion, was a cracking album! Audacious, experimental and different. And the rave reviews are totally warranted. But, one can’t overlook the fact that the album did not perform as well commercially in comparison to his previous studio releases. The mixed reaction from the public is reflected in its sales. It debuted at the top of the Billboard but units shifted quickly waned and the sales figures marked his lowest solo opening week sales in the US.
Projected to sell half a million copies in its first week, sales fell below industry forecasts and label expectations. Sure, an alternative marketing approach, early leaks and internet piracy probably didn’t help but at the end of the day, to stay relevant, mainstream and popular, you need to keep the fans – the people that spend money on your brand – onside. And a good attitude really helps.
I conclude my list with Amy Pascal, the Sony Picture Entertainment bigwig at the centre of THAT email hack which dominated the international news agenda at the end of 2014.
The hack caused considerable humiliation, not only to Pascal, but to Sony as an entire company. E-mails between Pascal and producer Scott Rudin were peppered with critical comments levied at Angelina Jolie, with Rudin referring to her as “a minimally talented spoiled brat”.
The photo of Pascal encountering Jolie for the first time after those emails surfaced spoke volumes. Simply put, it was toe-curling, you could cut the tension with a knife. In another email exchange with Rudin, Pascal suggested that President Obama would especially enjoy the movies Django Unchained and The Butler. One can understand why news reports were quick to brand Pascal as “racially insensitive” and “racist”. My advice to Pascal moving forward?
Well, actress Lisa Kudrow has hit the nail on the head in my opinion: “Don’t write anything you don’t want broadcast”.