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Paul Kemp-Robertson

Co-Founder & Editorial Director / Contagious, Contagious Communications

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Are people starting to trust brands and corporations more than governments?

Technology has reconfigured the mechanics of the traditional business landscape, changing what we buy and how we pay for it. Peer-to-peer systems like AirBnB and TaskRabbit encourage people to swap, share and rent amongst themselves rather than buy from stores. Concurrent with the growth in collaborative consumption is the emergence of a new understanding of 'money'. The limits of traditional monetary units are being tested against a backdrop of financial uncertainty, currency volatility and technological progress. People are coming to realise that their data, everyday activities and social chatter are alternative forms of value and payment. Slowly, we're seeing new micro- and crypto-economies being forged that aren't necessarily based on a traditional understanding of cash.

Surveys such as the Edelman Trust barometer suggest that there is a global weakening of trust in institutions and governments, If people are starting to trust businesses and brands more than their civic leaders, should we be questioning whether governments need to be in sole charge of money any more? In 1860 there were 1600 varieties of currency in America. Are brands hoping that history will start repeating itself? In a digital age, are loyalty programs becoming new forms of currency? Will people start to demand commodities (products and services) from brands in exchange for access to their personal data and consumption patterns? Are mobile phone credits more useful to modern consumers than loose change from a shopkeeper?

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  • Jul 28 2013: People generally trust brands from a narrow perspective of what those brand bring to the quality of their life. The brands are only part of their life. Corporations play their games too. People may get duped in the process but at the end they can dump the brands if they wish so. Governments are different from brands and corporations as they have bigger influance on a persons quality of life.

    Governments in last few decades have missed the larger reason for their existance. Politicians have sabotaged the very purpose of governance (democratic or otherwise) for their own personal ambitions. If governance is corrupted due to the short-term ambitions of the politicians and authorities, corporations too have quarter-on-quarter greed to blame. At the end, one cannot trust both now !
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      Jul 28 2013: Hi Anand. Thanks for the comment. It's easy to see why you feel that way!

      Hopefully social media will continue to force corporations to be increasingly transparent and accountable for their actions. Also, there are plenty of consumer surveys out there that suggest that people are increasingly choosing to buy products from companies with a social purpose, who are committed to 'doing good'. At Contagious, we have featured many companies who are making a genuine effort to give back to society.

      My favourite examples would be Patagonia for its environmental credentials, Chipotle for its active support for rural communities and organic farming in the US, Hiutt Jeans in the UK for resurrecting clothes manufacturing in a depressed town,,Toms Shoes and Sir Richard's Condoms for their 'buy one, give one'philosophy, Raspberry Pi for democratising access to computing and Nike for its charitable work with adolescent girls in developing countries ( http://www.girleffect.org/ )

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