Book Excerpt: Why trust, not data, has become the most important asset in the modern economy

[Editor’s Note: Stein Broeder, a marketing executive at Microsoft, explores the components and value of trust in the new book, “The Business of Trust: How Experiences Build Trust and Drive Business Impact” Excerpt published with permission.]

“Do you trust me?”

This was a question a surgeon asked me once before an operation. I thought that was a fun question. But when you thought about it, it underscored something very basic. It was just funny because he was asking the question. The answer was yes, and that was implied. That same implied trust is why you are reading this book.

Virtually every action we take, no matter how mundane or critical at any given level, involves trust. Trust is so woven into the fabric of our lives that it is rarely discussed. As Warren Buffet pointed out, like the air we breathe is seldom noticed, but when it is absent, when trust is broken, everyone notices.

“Trust is not an issue. it’s the problem. “1

Trust is indeed the problem these days. Trust is broken right and left. Read the headings. Check out your social media feed. There is a crisis of confidence.

And what is one of the main culprits? Technology.

As technology brought many conveniences into our lives, it also made us more complex. And the pandemic we are experiencing together intensifies the need to reduce that complexity and make sense of it. The leaders and organizations who figure out how to deal with this complexity and build lasting relationships with employees and customers will be successful.

This means that you need to be proactive to gain and build the trust of your employees and your customers. And if you break it, you must know how to rebuild it.

“Maintaining trust is a constant endeavor, but it can be derailed in a split second. This is especially true in the digital age, where social platforms act as catalysts for the dissemination of information and search engines are a permanent collective memory. “2


“Techlash” was coined by The Economist and, according to, describes a strong negative reaction or backlash against the largest technology companies or their employees or products

This phenomenon was originally described as hypothetical or theoretical, but has now become very real.

If you use technology in any form, you have undoubtedly felt some of the emotions that led to the “techlash” phenomenon, some of which arose from actual events.

“[I]Among other things, in the revelations in which Russia used social media platforms to disrupt the 2016 US elections, Cambridge Analytica misused Facebook data for political purposes and Google was investigated for antitrust violations. In parallel, panic spread as new technologies such as deep learning, certain forms of artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomous vehicles were viewed as transformative and imminent. “4

Stein Broeder

While the effects of “techlash” have been felt by almost everyone, people are not giving up on their phones, computers, or the internet. However, people have become more cautious and skeptical. According to the 2019 Edelman Brand Trust Survey, 45 percent of consumers say they would never trust a brand that is unethical or controversial, and 40 percent would never buy from that brand again.5 To make this a reality, Uber is a good example of a brand that suffers from a lack of trust. The brand index rating dropped 141.3 percent in 2017 when it announced its data breach.6 Anecdotally, I can tell you that I shut down their service because of improper data processing, and I know many friends and colleagues who did the same.

“If a breach is mishandled, consumers are likely to lose confidence, drop out of business, inform their network of the breach, and shop with a safer competitor.” 7

In addition to losing confidence, companies need to think about the ripple effect. People like to talk, especially about good or bad experiences. It relates directly to the theft of your information due to a data breach: 8

  • 85 percent tell others about their experiences
  • 33.5 percent use social media to complain about their experience
  • 20 percent comment directly on the retailer’s website

And it’s not just consumers who can lose confidence. This can happen in the business-to-business world as well. After all, companies are ultimately run by people.

Facebook finds this example in the crosshairs again. As a direct result of advertisers’ lack of concerns about the spread of hate speech, thousands of brands have joined the #StopHateForProfit movement. This list of participating brands ranged from small businesses to large funders like Disney, Microsoft, Starbucks, Diageo, Coca-Cola, Verizon, Unilever, the Ford Motor Company, The North Face, Ben & Jerry’s, and Levi’s. A Pathmatics study found that Facebook’s top 100 advertisers were spending about $ 30 million less annually in July. Even for Facebook, this is a definite success for the bottom line

If you investigate the cause of techlash, it can be traced back to one thing: the diffusion of data.


Data is critical to a brand’s success, but data is not the new oil. This mantra is deceptively simple.

While data like oil powers much of the technology in use today, unlike oil, it is more susceptible to abuse by bad actors. And the examples of abuse in our currently heavily networked information networks increase the importance of trust. Examples include Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Uber’s privacy breach cover-up, and Google’s privacy issues.

Basically, a company’s data is worth an enormous amount, but only for that company. It would never sell it to the competition. Sure, there are companies that sell location data, for example, but first-party data largely stays with the company that generated it. When used properly, this data ultimately benefits the consumer in the form of personalization. This then helps build trust.

My research has shown that trust is a company’s most important asset, even more important than data. Trust is the currency and experiences are the way we manage trust. How do brands build their trust banks? By providing meaningful and unforgettable experiences with a lasting impact. People give you their trust when you give them the right experience.

And leaders need to think about every possible experience. Every interaction is an opportunity.


Gaining, building, and maintaining trust is exactly what managers need to focus on. There is evidence that they know what to do. 76 percent of global marketers say trust is important for consumers to keep buying their brand.10 In addition to privacy and security, 47 percent define trust as brand loyalty, and the same percentage define trust as customers as brand ambassadors.11

The question is how?

Trust is a fun thing. From a neuroscientific point of view, we want to trust.

“The willingness to trust others is built into our DNA. Working together has always been key to the survival of our species. Trust in one another is in the best interests of both the individual and the collective – especially in times of risk and uncertainty. “12

From a fundamental perspective, trust is woven into the structure of our life. It permeates almost every action we take and every interaction we have.

“Trust; the reason for the stability of global financial markets, the motivation for the rise of political parties, the human characteristic that makes placebo drugs effective. Trust has always been the foundation for lasting relationships, the strength that goes into developing all positive ones Aspects of our societies play a role. ”13

It is the basic principle that governs how we treat each other. The question is how leaders and organizations can seize this opportunity. Through purpose and values.

Values ​​add value, says MJ DePalma, Head of Multicultural and Integrative Marketing at Microsoft Advertising. And that by building trust.

Trust is the foundation on which any business, organization, or team should be built.

Excerpted from The Business of Trust by Stein Broeder, with permission from the editor, New Degree Press. Copyright © 2020 by Stein Broeder. All rights reserved.

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