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MARCC event breaks down the components of trust and demonstrate how they are the foundation of a changing industry

Aug 11, 2023 by Michael McNerney, Publisher, Martech Record

MARCC events are designed to help industry participants elevate their thinking – to get beyond the day-to-day demands and urgent issues to focus on critical concepts and trends driving our industry forward. This year’s July 31 event in New York continued that tradition by underscoring the fundamental importance of trust. 

Key Takeaways

  • Trust expresses our willingness to have others do things on our behalf. It has three critical components: competence, honesty, and benevolence. 
  • Just as trust is central to customer relationships, working with trusted partners helps brands build stronger bonds and increased revenue by allowing an advertisers to leverage the publisher brand to execute across multiple channels and KPIs.
  • Preserving consumer trust in partner editorial is critical to the success of our industry and why savvy brands understand why content relationships must always put the customer first.
  • Trust also powers the scale and market share of Amazon, and brands need to consider their options for marketing with Amazon as they formulate future growth plans. New and established performance marketing products allow brands to participate in the Amazon ecosystem. 


Years ago, marketers focused enormous attention and resources on garnering shelf space at retail. But the modern-day “shelf space” fight is on publisher websites, where most consumers learn about and select products. Optimizing that shelf space is central to brands’ success.  Their partner relationships should reinforce the messaging, pricing, and product.

According to the thirteen thought leaders who spoke individually and as part of the event’s expert panels, trust is the most crucial element of a successful brand. Our diverse speakers' perspectives made a powerful case, stressing how trust relationships between investors, brands, publishers, agencies, and consumers make a crucial difference in driving results. 


Consumer Trust and “Trust Tests”


We are grateful to longtime Martech Record partner for sponsoring our first session, a lecture by Professor Kent Grayson of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Dr. Grayson kicked off our day by discussing his many years of work studying the importance of trust in customer relationships. Dr. Grayson is a leading authority on the centrality of trust relationships in marketing. While most people intuitively understand the importance of brand trust, Dr. Grayson’s work focuses on how trust relationships increase efficiency and profitability. 


“In trust relationships, we voluntarily ask others to do things on our behalf. In trust relationships, there are three dimensions: 1)Competence, that they are well qualified to perform the task; 2) Honesty, that they keep their promises and 3)Benevolence, or the sense that others have our best interests at heart.”


According to Dr. Grayson’s research, “trust tests'' are critical moments in brand relationships when problematic circumstances create stress on trust. These are moments when consumers ask:


  1. Is the problem the brand’s fault, or are there outside circumstances creating the issue
  2. Are they being straightforward or trying to pull one over?
  3. Are they trying to stick it to me?


Interestingly, Dr. Grayson’s research suggests that people are more forgiving of negative information on competence – that the brand made a mistake, than on benevolence and honesty, where the brand's character comes into question. These are important lessons as we navigate rapidly changing environments and economic pressures. 


Fireside Chat: Tory Brangham, Chief Commerce Officer Dotdash Meredith


We are also thankful to our close partner CJ, who sponsored our second session, a conversation between Dotdash Meredith Chief Commerce Officer Tory Brangham and Martech Record Founder and Publisher Mike McNerney.  

The fascinating conversation focused on how publishers cultivate consumer trust and what that trust enables them to do. For Dotdash Meredith, delivering valuable and unbiased content to readers is central to every aspect of their business. Performance deals are an integral part of their business model, and their widely read reviews and other sponsored editorial must bring absolute authenticity every time. 


Said Tory Brangham, “Honesty and transparency are everything to us. We want to be totally transparent with the reader. We want to answer their questions like, ‘What is it like using this product? What is good, and what isn’t? What’s gotten better since the last review?’ That honesty is critical to our business.”


Decades of positive trust relationships were critical to why Dotdash acquired the Meredith properties in 2021. “Brands like Better Homes and Gardens have lived their commitment to customers and trust since their founding. The acquisition of Meredith made so much sense because we could bring our successful business model to these great publications and build new trust relationships between consumers and brands.”


Mike and Tory extended our trust conversation by explaining its importance to the relationships between Dotdash Meredith and its agency and brand partners. Editorial always controls the content – something that is in the best interest of everyone. “Merchants appreciate how working with high-trust publishing brands helps them build trust with shoppers.”


Story-Telling and Go-to-Market


We thank new partner Capital One Shopping for sponsoring our third session: a panel conversation on how great publisher environments deliver opportunities to tell vivid brand stories and create high-impact moments critical to brand development. 

Jessie Fofana, Founder and CEO of Larue PR, moderated a conversation between Camilla Cho, SVP, eCommerce, Vox Media, Lauren Newman, EVP Media and Commerce at Red Ventures, Jason Panzer, President of Hexclad Cookware, and Ian Yung, SVP of Revenue for Tonal


For Tonal and Hexclad, affiliate performance partnerships with content and influencer partners have been significant to their brands’ meteoric success. Said Jason Panzer, “Increasing our affiliate spending is an easy decision because we can easily see the brand and business value. When buying your product is a high-consideration decision, having great reviews and editorial explaining your product is so important.”


Reviews and other forms of editorial have provided great opportunities to create stronger emotional bonds with customers in high-credibility environments that create a halo effect. All advertisers wish their brand were ranked first in every list or article but recognize why content control must always remain with editorial teams. Only this approach can create the trust that is so essential to motivate shoppers. 

Our publication leaders explained how commerce and editorial can come together while preserving editorial independence. They encouraged brands to share data and insight with the commerce teams that they can share with editors to suggest new content that will appeal to more readers. Consumer trust is preserved and extended by putting the reader’s interest at the center of these brand/publisher relationships. 


Affiliate budgets and the Amazon Ecosystem


Our final session was sponsored by our new event partner, Affiliate Summit, who have our sincere thanks. This VIP panel discussion addressed a topic of profound importance to our industry but little discussed at most industry events: the Amazon partnership ecosystem. While Amazon rarely shares data about the size or growth of its affiliate business, most industry observers believe it accounts for 30-40% of total industry sales. This is in line with Amazon’s total share of ecommerce, which industry experts peg at about 38%


Moderated by Jesse Lakes, Co-Founder & CEO - Geniuslink and author of Mastering Amazon Associates: A Creator’s Guide to the Amazon Affiliate Program, our panel brought together many experts in the Amazon ecosystem. Our panelists included Ian Brodie, CEO - Levanta, Ben Faw, Founder - Best Reviews & Advon, Douglas Mapes, Program Manager - Amazon Associates, and Mike Mallazzo, Principal, Business Development & Partnerships - Forum Brands.


According to our speakers, trust is at the core of Amazon’s success, and capitalizing on that trust represents a healthy business opportunity for brands. Many customers prefer to shop with Amazon or at least know that other merchants offer favorable value exchanges compared to Amazon. This is why many successful brands now get their start by leveraging Amazon marketing and fulfillment tools to establish their businesses. 



Our speakers discussed the enormous opportunities to drive scale and conversion rates in the Amazon arena and how Amazon is increasingly an integrated part of a brand’s connected partner ecosystem. As new technologies enable brands to give consumers a choice of places to buy, working with Amazon helps extend brand appeal and revenue. 


The group also discussed Amazon's growing connections to the global influencer community and how Amazon Influencer Program, Amazon Live, and Amazon Discover are helping promote new and popular products. Our speakers noted that more short-buying cycles and impulse products perform exceptionally well in the new Amazon programs. 


Great Conversations and Networking and Networking


Making connections is an integral part of the MARCC model. This year, we are grateful to three fast-growing agencies who cosponsored our networking session, Gen3 Marketing, LT Partners, and PartnerCentric. With an unprecedented number of brand, agency, network, and publisher attendees, MARCC proved a great place to forge new partnerships.




Partners Share Additional Insights

In the spirit of collaboration, MARCC partners shared their own data and insights with attendees. Here are links to valuable partner resources: 

Gen3 shared their recently released State of the Nation Affiliate Marketing Report (including insight from Martech Record).

PartnerCentric shared their Incrementality Index & Power Rankings, a data driven assessment of content types and performance. shared their new Commerce Content Hub, loaded with insight for publishers.  

Rakuten Advertising recently published and shared their new eBook on Influencer Marketing.  


Martech Record thanks our sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making our fourth live event successful. We wish you great luck in forging new partnerships centered around trust.