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For the love of trust – Edelman’s Michelle Hutton talks creativity and the state of trust


For the love of trust – Edelman’s Michelle Hutton talks creativity and the state of trust


Trust makes the world go round, and Edelman has devoted its efforts to charting its effects. Michelle Hutton discusses brand trust taking over brand love, the state of trust in the Asia Pacific region, shifting tides in creativity and more.

This article was sponsored by Advertising Week APAC, the world’s premiere gathering for marketing and communications leaders »

The annual Edelman Trust Barometer has become an industry stalwart, charting the rise and fall of institutions, geographies and professions for each calendar year and reminding us how important trust really is to that which we do day in day out. In January 2019, the Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that trust has changed a lot in the past year. As expected, there is a growing move toward engagement and action. Though perhaps the most surprising finding was a shift in trust toward employers. Globally, 75% of people trust ‘my employer’ to do what is right, even more so than NGOs (57%), business (56%) and media (47%).

We caught up with Michelle Hutton, Edelman’s managing director of global client strategy – and Advertising Week APAC keynote speaker – about why trust is so important for brands today.

Advertising Week: What are you going to be on stage talking about at Advertising Week APAC this year?

Michelle Hutton, managing director of global client strategy, Edelman: I’m going to talk about why trust is a brand’s most valuable asset, the brand trust journey and how brands can earn and keep trust.

This is important to discuss because brand trust is now more important than brand love. 

In today’s polarised world, activist citizens are driving a step change in the way that brands build trusted and transparent relationships with people and their communities. There are many ways for a brand to build trust – and just as many ways to lose it. An occasional misstep may be forgiven, but once trust has been broken it can be very difficult for a brand to ever fully recover. Even purpose or values-driven marketing can lead to controversy, generate a backlash or be seen as a form of ‘trust-washing’.

I’m going to speaking about the importance of brand trust, and how brands can earn and spark conversations and start movements.

I will be sharing some new data from a special report of the Edelman Trust Barometer that explores brands and their relationships with people (to be launched at Cannes this year) that gives brands a roadmap to the attributes, messages, channels, spokespeople and influencers that can help build trusted brands. 

On the theme of trust, how does APAC stack up? Who are we trusting and why? What can other brands learn from those that are the most trusted?

There are five key trends: 

  1. There is an increasing trust gap between the haves and have-nots. When it comes to some of the markets in Asia Pacific:

India’s 17 point trust gap returns to its previous high in 2016 mainly driven by the informed group’s trust going up for NGOs, up 19 points; business, up six points; and media, also up six points.

Indonesia reaches a record-high trust gap at 14 points from its previous high in 2018 of 13 points. The gap is being driven by trust rising in NGOs – up seven points – among the informed group.

Hong Kong’s trust gap returns to a wide gap at 14 points, driven primarily by a trust rise in government – up 19 points – and media – also up 19 points – among the informed group.

Japan has widened its trust gap to 16 points from 15 points recorded in 2017, driven by trust rising in media – up nine points – and government – up seven points – among the informed group.

South Korea has widened its trust gap to 17 points from 14 points recorded in 2017, driven by rising trust rise in business – up 19 points – and media – up 13 points – among the informed group.

  1. Trust is now divided along gender lines.
  1. People are more pessimistic and, in particular, fearful about job security.
  1. There’s a real and growing concern about fake news, but there is an upswing in those seeking out trusted news and information.
  1. ‘My employer’ emerges as the most trusted relationship globally. 

Are companies as creative and innovative as they used to be?

Businesses that embrace the importance of creativity and innovation, be that brand or agency, are growing faster and stronger than their competition. 

Creativity makes the world go round. We are nothing without it. It brings hope and can build trust. Sometimes, the best creative thinking comes in times of adversity when people come together to think, build and craft smarter and better solutions. When it comes to innovation, it can be both incremental or disruptive. You can find innovation at all levels at work, and in work, around the world, daily.

Creativity is the lifeblood of any business. It goes far beyond aesthetic, craft and design. It exists in different forms, places and locations. Businesses need their people to be agile, nimble and to have the ability to look at things differently every day. And it most definitely delivers a commercial return.

When it comes to leadership, today’s successful leaders embrace creative thinking. In fact, creativity is now the most important quality of any leader. These leaders are prepared to take risks and they have the bravery and tenacity to try something different. They encourage and reward creative solutions from their teams.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?

 That showing vulnerability as a leader is okay, and in most cases, it is more than just okay; it helps build trusted relationships.


Advertising Week APAC is returning to Luna Park in Sydney for the second year! Grab your tickets today »





Image credit:Belinda Fewings


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