By Denise A. Valdez

EMPLOYEES are being positioned as possible ambassadors for their companies’ brands, after a recent study found increasing interest from Filipino consumers in knowing about a company’s workings before patronizing its products and services.

Communications firm Havas Ortega Group said in a report, “The Future of Trust,” that 61% of Filipino respondents are willing to listen to a company’s employees in the process of building trust in a brand.

The study surveyed nearly 10,000 “progressive consumers” from 27 countries in the fourth quarter of 2018, 250 of which are from the Philippines.

One of the findings was that 57% of so-called “prosumers” trust a brand that opens its doors to reveal the inner workings of a company — whether that be its physical operations such as its factory, or its work environment through its people.

A prosumer is an amateur enthusiast who seeks out near-professional quality goods. The segment is a prominent market for home improvement equipment, cooking products and electronics, particularly camera products, and many companies configure their strategies to sell to the demanding and highly-engaged “prosumer” market. The alternative meaning of “progressive consumer” acknowledges increasing interest in how companies that produce goods are run.

“There is an emerging trend. From our last study (in August 2018), we saw a shift towards what we call meaningful consumption. While people are concerned about the quality of things that they buy, the quality of services that they get from brands or business, they’re also concerned about how those services and brands and products came to be,” Philip V. Tiongson, Havas Ortega’s head of data analytics, said in a media briefing on Wednesday.

The recent prosumer report, which Havas Ortega said it has been conducting for more than 10 years to predict trends in the mainstream consumer market in six to 18 months, focused on what the firm described as an “eroding” notion of trust.

It said 51% of the respondents find themselves “less and less trusting” as they grow older, despite efforts from technologically-advanced companies to build peer-to-peer platforms that heavily rely on for consumer engagement.

Among these companies, Mr. Tiongson said, are Airbnb, Grab, Wikipedia and TripAdvisor — which all built their competencies in the peer-to-peer economy.

“Technology was supposed to usher in a new age of trust… (But) everything can be gamed. The technology that was supposed to be founded on trust, that was supposed to inherently make trust a foundation in society, can actually be gamed and (drive people to distrust),” he said.

The survey found that 57% of the respondents find it dishonest when the people they follow on social media advertise products. It also said only 49% are convinced to buy products that influencers promote on social media.

The report said 78% are more likely to trust a company based on how well it treats its employees. It added, 71% trust brands better when they could admit mistakes and show attempts to correct them.

“(Business leaders) will have to look at their businesses not just in terms of numbers, not just in terms of profits and losses. They will have to start thinking about governance… in terms of how they are contributing to the environment, to the society or the communities where they are physically. Consumers are demanding that businesses be involved and be more transparent,” Mr. Tiongson said.