The economy of wishes
A view from Sue Unerman

The economy of wishes

"Secrets for success in the economy of wishes" - this was the subject of my final panel last week at Advertising Week Europe.

Ad Week Europe. Not much else was talked about in my (admittedly fairly narrow) professional circle last week. The consensus was that the organisers excelled themselves in creating a true festival of advertising and media.

The idea of an "economy of wishes" was introduced by PricewaterhouseCoopers to describe a shift in the old asymmetry of economic power.

In the old days, brands and manufacturers held the cards and gave out information at their own pace. Now, as I described in my book Tell The Truth, consumers can see all the cards and find out whatever they wish to about a brand via their tablets and smartphones. Relative prices, satisfaction reviews, sourcing, CRM policies and even the pay ratios of the chief executive to the average worker – all can be uncovered in a few moments.

Our debate was around how best to manage a retail brand in this environment, and the consensus was around disclosure, authenticity and treating the customer as if they matter. Nish Kukadia, the chief executive at, explained that customer satisfaction scores rocketed when the company clearly explained the shipping process for its products and defined expectations accurately around the speed of delivery.

I cited the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, which, once again, shows the growing trend that consumers trust the opinions of employees – people like them – more than chief executives or paid experts, which means that businesses that empower their staff reap rewards as every encounter with customers is a positive brand-building opportunity.

It has to be authentic, of course. Meeting Dick Costolo, the chief executive of Twitter, last week, we agreed that consumers can sniff out the slightest hint of inauthentic communications – in one-to-one encounters in a shop, in customer-service calls and via Twitter. There's a divide appearing between brands we can believe in because they are true to themselves and have trusted representatives who believe in the brand, and brands where the employees are either disillusioned or, worse, sound like they have drunk too much Kool-Aid and are just spouting the company line. Come to think of it, I could name media-owner brands and sales teams that represent either side of that divide too. Can you?

In the economy of wishes, if we imagine something, we can make it happen. How do we choose where to spend our time and money, personally or professionally? We will choose where we have trust in the brands and the people who represent them.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom