Brand Trust And The Say-Do Gap 

average read time: 6 MIN

Journal

July 31, 2023

The Say-Do Gap is a term commonly used to describe the disconnect between what a person says they believe and the behaviors and actions they practice. This phenomenon has most commonly been attributed to sustainability issues, where people claim to care about environmental issues but fail to translate their belief into meaningful action. Take, for example, the Stand For More Generation. Gen Z and millennials care about the environment but may purchase fast fashion items that contribute to excessive waste and pollution in the fashion industry. They might consume single-use plastics without considering alternative eco-friendly options. They might also participate in energy-intensive activities without actively seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

BRANDS AND THE SAY-DO GAP

The Say-Do Gap extends beyond personal behaviors and manifests as a branding disconnect. The Say-Do Gap emerges when an organization asserts a core belief but fails to align its behaviors and actions accordingly. This misalignment can occur when organizations make promises, commitments, or claims based on their single, guiding core belief but need to actually embody this belief in practice. The consequences of this gap can be severe, eroding trust and credibility with customers, employees, and stakeholders while inflicting lasting damage on the organization’s reputation.

For example, A multinational corporation’s public commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability clashes with its unethical practices, creating a significant say-do gap that leads to public outrage and reputational damage. Similarly, an organization claims to prioritize employee well-being with flexible working hours and wellness programs, but the reality of overwork, lack of time off, and a toxic work environment undermines its professed beliefs, resulting in low morale and difficulties in attracting and retaining talented employees.

While the Say-Do Gap can suggest that organizations are intentionally indifferent, it’s important to understand that it does not always indicate a brand’s indifference or hypocrisy. IPSOS conducted a fantastic study in 2020 and identified many factors that contribute to this gap, including the complexity of the issues at hand, resource constraints, and conflicting priorities.

IDENTIFYING THE SAY-DO GAP

So where do brands begin to identify and ultimately close their Say-Do Gap? It begins with understanding an organization’s belief and how they align with their actions. At BLVR, we like to run an exercise with clients to help identify their Say-Do Gap. It’s a comprehensive audit of behaviors, both internal and external. We identify what they are excelling in and where they are falling short across five key areas of a business:

Questions to ask:

  1. Sales and Marketing – Do the brand’s sales and marketing initiatives consistently reflect and uphold its core belief?
  2. Product Development – Does the brand’s product development process embody its core belief and contribute to realizing its mission?
  3. Customer Experience – Is the brand’s core belief evident in the experiences and interactions it provides for its customers?
  4. Employee Experience – Is the brand’s core belief integrated into the company culture, shaping the experiences of its employees?
  5. Social Good – Does the brand’s commitment to social responsibility align with its core belief, and is it manifested in meaningful action?

We typically do this in a workshop environment with key cross-functional leaders across the Client’s business. This ensures multiple perspectives are captured, and stakeholder alignment can be facilitated as the discussions unfold.

This simple but effective workshop exercise helps to identify discrepancies, set realistic goals, and align strategies for improved performance. It also allows our clients to mitigate risks, make informed decisions, and foster a culture of continuous improvement toward becoming a belief-driven brand.

Download the Guide: The Say-Do Gap Analysis

Learn the simple workshop framework to identify how closely your brands actions align with its belief.

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BRIDGING THE SAY DO-GAP

So, how can brands bridge the Say-Do Gap? It’s all about taking deliberate actions to back up what they believe with actual behaviors that let an organization walk the talk. Bridging the Say-Do gap requires commitment and an understanding that it may take a little time to get it right. Let’s dive into some strategies we recommend to our clients.

The first step is to understand the brand’s core belief. This is the deeply held conviction that sits at the center of your business. Why is this crucial? Because without this fundamental truth, there is no basis for any actions.  

Then authenticity and transparency are key. Brands need to be real and honest in their communications. Tangible actions and evidence must back up their claims and promises. Through transparency, brands can build trust and credibility with their customers, employees, and stakeholders.

Next up, internal alignment is crucial. Brands should make sure that their internal operations and culture are in sync with their stated belief and values. This means creating a work environment where employees truly understand and embody the brand’s vision and values. When the internal practices match the external messaging, brands can ensure consistency and integrity.

Consistency in brand messaging is also vital. Brands should consistently communicate their belief, values, and commitments across all touchpoints. Whether through advertising, social media, customer interactions, or corporate communications, brands should consistently reinforce their core messages and values. This helps build their brand reputation and avoids confusion or skepticism among stakeholders.

Employee empowerment plays a big role too. Brands should empower their employees to act according to the brand’s stated belief. This includes providing employees with the necessary training, guidance, and resources to represent the brand authentically. When employees feel empowered, brands can create a unified front and ensure their actions align with their messaging.

Accountability and measurement are also key factors. Brands should hold themselves accountable for their actions and regularly measure their performance against their stated commitments. This means setting measurable goals, tracking progress, and conducting regular evaluations. By being accountable, brands can identify areas for improvement and take the necessary steps to make things right.

Collaborations and partnerships can be powerful tools for bridging the Say-Do Gap. Brands can collaborate with like-minded organizations, experts, or influencers with similar values and belief. Through collaborations, brands can amplify their impact and show commitment to their belief through joint initiatives and projects.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that bridging the Say-Do Gap is an ongoing process. Brands should continuously evaluate their actions, listen to feedback, and adapt their practices to better align with their belief. By embracing a continuous improvement mindset, brands can bridge the gap and foster long-term trust and loyalty.

Bridging the Say-Do Gap requires brands to act with integrity, align their internal and external practices, communicate consistently, empower their employees, and hold themselves accountable. It takes commitment and effort, but by taking these steps, brands can bring strong returns. That’s because closing the Say-Do Gap shapes the emotional connection between a brand and its customers, fostering trust, loyalty, and advocacy, driving increased market share, customer retention, and ultimately deeper levels of company profitability.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The Say-Do Gap is a disconnect when organizations fail to align their behaviors with their stated belief.
  • The Say-Do Gap’s consequences can damage trust, credibility, and reputation.
  • Factors contributing to the Gap include the complexity of issues, resource constraints, and conflicting priorities.
  • To identify the Say-Do Gap, brands can conduct comprehensive audits across key areas: sales and marketing, product development, customer experience, employee experience, and social good initiatives.
  • Bridging the Say-Do Gap requires authenticity, transparency, and internal alignment.
  • Consistent messaging, employee empowerment, accountability, and collaboration are essential in closing the Gap.
  • Bridging the Gap is an ongoing process that requires continuous evaluation, feedback, and improvement.
  • By closing the Say-Do Gap, brands can build trust, strengthen relationships, and demonstrate their commitment to their beliefs and values.
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