By David Tubbs, Director of Marketing Communications at ApplyBoard. Additional contributions made by members of DIACC’s Outreach Expert Committee.
Relationships are built on one thing: trust. It is the basis to which we form opinions and develop long lasting associations with who and how we make decisions in our everyday lives. Trust is typically established through one of three ways: 1) personal experience, 2) opinions from others we trust, and 3) third party verification in the form of reviews or trustmarks.
Let’s explore this third avenue and find out exactly what a trustmark is, how they come about, and most importantly, why they matter. In the digital era with an increase of online and accessible services, trustmarks matter more than ever before trustmarks matter more than ever before.
What is a trustmark?
Trustmarks are all around us every single day. They are woven into the fabric of our daily lives in the community, but more importantly in our digital lives.
When you login to a website and see the lock icon on your browser to denote a secure connection, when you walk into a bank in Canada and see the purple Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) logo right at the entrance, or when you go to a hotel website and see their Trip Advisor rating posted. These are all trustmarks and they exist to establish consumer confidence.
Trustmarks are less about what it stands for and more about how it makes the user feel. Do they feel a familiarity and understanding as to what the trustmark means? Do they feel like a third party actually verified something? And, does the user feel safe? These are questions a trustmark needs to answer to both communicate what it stands for and serve a wider purpose. Both of these factors can only come from a shared understanding of the trust to be built.
Creating a shared understanding
Crafting a universal and shared understanding for what a trustmark stands for is not easy. A trustmark must cross cultural, age, socioeconomic, and educational boundaries to make its ubiquity and utility impactful. It must also be supported by enough parties to gain critical mass so that adoption begins crossing traditional boundaries.
This often begins with an organization or group of entities to establish the need for a trustmark, its use, and also its limitations. It is vital that this organization remains unbiased. From there it is expanded through a virtuous cycle of education and adoption by more organizations until that critical mass of adoption is met. No matter what, the establishment of a solid foundation of a shared understanding is essential if widespread adoption of the trustmark is to be found. Without it, the trustmark will simply be a niche symbol for something only a small group will understand and recognize.
Creating mass adoption of a trustmark
The start of this shared understanding is happening right now as previously covered by Julianne Trotman in her article on the development and adoption of trust frameworks and the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework (PCTF). The PCTF is the set of established needs and expectations around what validates that trust. The development of the iconography for a digital trustmark, in this context, is an important part of the process, but not as important as the actual adoption.
Adoption of a trustmark must be done across all our digital platforms. It should be shared on partner websites, on platforms, social media, traditional materials, and more. Ubiquity is not a bad thing, but should be embraced.
To continue with the example of the PCTF, because DIACC was the central source of its development and articulation, any trustmark would begin with its collaborative members. Its members would act as evangelists to start creating a distribution network for the trustmark. The key after this is repetition and growth. There is no set timeline for a trustmarks societal adoption, only that it is a journey that is wholly dependent on ongoing adoption by other organizations, companies, and if applicable, government.
Trustmarks take time. That being said, they start with a collective of people looking to reassure and build trust in our society. The more we talk about and show off a trustmark, subtly or overtly, the better adoption will be. It is a journey, but a journey worth starting.