We're all looking for someone to trust. People and institutions that will do what they say and say what they mean.
Banks used to use marble pillars and armed guards to make it clear that our money was safe. Doctors put diplomas on the wall and wear white smocks. Institutions and relationships don't work without trust. It's not an accident that a gold standard in business is being able to do business on a handshake.
Today, though, it's easier than ever to build a facade of trust but not actually deliver. "Read the fine print," the financial institutions, cruise ship operators and business partners tell us after they've failed to honor what we thought they promised.
It's incredibily difficult to build a civil society on the back of "read the fine print." Emptor fidem works so much better than caveat emptor. When we have to spend all our time watching our back and working with lawyers, it's far more challenging to get anything done–and it makes building a business and a brand infinitely more difficult.
The question that needs to be asked by the marketer is, "are we doing this to create the appearance of trust, or is this actually something trustworthy, something we're proud to do?"
Building trust is expensive. You can call it an expense or an investment, or merely cut corners and work on trustiness instead.
Trust is built when no one is looking, when you think you have the option of cutting corners and when you find a loophole. Trustiness is what happens when you use trust as a PR tool.
The difference should be obvious. Trust experienced is remarkable, trustiness once discovered leaves a bad taste for even your most valued customers.
The perverse irony is this: the more you work on your trustiness, the harder you fall once people discover that they were tricked.
(With a hat tip to Colbert)