The Most Important Product You Can Sell In 2021

With trust in institutions at an all-time low, consumers are desperate for something to believe in. Give it to them, by staying true to your 'enduring idea.'

What will consumers and clients be craving to buy in 2021?

Will it be the new LG Rollable smartphone that just won raves at the all-digital CES 2021?

Or perhaps it might be Mattel’s 11-inch remote-controlled Baby Yoda? This little green guy actually moves. Electric bikes? Delta gift cards? Ergonomic chairs? Logitech HD video conferencing cameras? Quadruple-lined masks?

And if you are a consultant or architect selling to businesses, everyone is talking about “the future of work” in the post Covid world. What will the office of the future look like?

However, what if consumers and clients are craving something less tangible than the latest gadgets, toys or even a new office design. More than ever before, I believe the most important thing brands and businesses can sell in 2021 is trust.

People are craving to trust in something—anything. If you don’t believe me, ask the next person you see from six feet away while wearing a mask a simple question: “Who do you trust?”

No matter which way you lean, there is rapidly declining trust in our institutions; the new  2021 Edelman Trust Barometer just announced that trust in information services is at record lows. For the first time in its history, the poll rated businesses higher in trust than government institutions. However, before any business leaders get excited, the majority of those polled said capitalism “as it exists today does more harm than good.”

Of course, those 56 percent said that while sipping on a grande no-whip white chocolate mocha with soy.

But seriously, just the other day I got a notice on my mobile phone that there was a new version of software I needed to download and install. My first reaction wasn’t what it used to be: “Oh cool, new features!”

Instead, I thought with a little anxiety, “I wonder what’s in there…”

Am I paranoid?

Perhaps, but apparently, I’m not the only one having second thoughts about trusting technology. “This moment in time might call for this dynamic,” Jack Dorsey tweeted after his company’s recent crackdown, “but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet.”

The Eldeman poll claims that “trust remains the most important currency in lasting relationships.” If this is true, and I believe it is, then there will be a long-term impact on any brand or business that betrays that trust with its customers and clients.

The next logical question then is this: “How might I be betraying the trust of my consumers and clients?”

The answer to that question will be different for every company or brand because it depends on your enduring idea. In 2009, the advertising giant Ogilvy put together a book for IBM on “the work of making a great company, and therefore a great brand.” The book talked about how trust is earned:

“Thousands of brands are recognizable. A small number earn respect, admiration or loyalty. Only a few endure…  So how is it that certain brands earn your loyalty, your attention and your trust?”

They do it, Ogilvy argued, through “an enduring idea.”

“Although these companies’ products and services must in themselves be unique in the marketplace, that is not enough—because products and services come and go. This is why these companies choose to be animated by an idea that is timeless.”

For example, Ogilvy wrote that Disney is based on the enduring idea of “innocence.” So, the quickest way for Disney to destroy the trust it has with fans like me is to do something that shatters this innocence. In fact, I recently wrote about how much I loved Walt Disney World’s approach to keeping its princesses safely mask free during the pandemic because it preserved that magical innocence. When I went to Orlando, I wanted to see Anna of Arandelle’s smile—and I did!

I’ll let others debate whether the “Big Tech” companies are living up to their enduring ideas of “building community,” “seeing all sides of the story,” creating the “best user experiences” and delivering “abundant, free and unbiased access to high quality information.” However, I am not surprised that Duck Duck Go just surpassed 100 million searches in a single day.

No matter who you are, big or small, there is an opportunity in 2021 if you stay true to the enduring idea that animates your brand. Staying true to your enduring idea will build trust with consumers and clients.

If you are selling trust in 2021, your business will grow.


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