Unprecedented political uncertainty has shaped and defined recent times in the US, UK and beyond – it has shaken and broken trust everywhere. So much so, that people are starting to question institutions and politicians but brands are still relatively trusted; in fact 81% of people think they have the power to change the world. So, it seems like trust the new currency. And if so, what’s its value?

These are the main insights given over several talks last week during the SXSW festival, in Austin, Texas.

Become a glass-box brand

Public trust has broken down because the internet has become a Wild West with fraud and fake news. As the 26 year old entrepreneur and CEO of Social Chain Group, Steven Bartlett explained, “Social media is like being in the heart of Time Square”. What he urged companies to do therefore I to become a “glass box”. It is only where there is openness and transparency that people learn to trust. So, let people see inside the company and assess every person, action and value.

Don’t forget to do nothing

This was the advice given by Heather Corker, client partner and US relationship director at Foresight Factory.

Uncertain times have led to new consumer behaviors. Acting in a sort of “survival mode” as an attempt to take back control, brands can step in and help people to plan their future, mitigate risks and think of more long-term and sustainable solutions.

Feeling the pressures that are out there to do and achieve more, brands can provide customers with content, skills and experiences that will help them “enhance their lives, achieve their goals and feel validated”.

One more thing that brands cannot forget however is to be fun! In these times of pressure and uncertainty people also want to just relax! Brands should therefore use the time people set aside to be stress free and encourage guilty pleasures: “Stress free is the new black.”

Put people and privacy before profits

Brands must think bigger and understand that they have a responsibility. Misinformation is a dangerous problem in India where people are much more likely to believe all the information they are told on their phones.

As pointed out by Danny Bluestone, CEO of user experience agency Cyber-Duck, “We need to design for different cultures and communities because there are tens of millions of people over the world who are different to us.”

His second statement was that when building products and services, brands must also see privacy as a default setting and offer privacy as a human right and not as an afterthought.

Change culture through creativity

Chris Macdonald, global president advertising and allied agencies at McCann Worldgroup said that too much focus has been placed on volume, reach and eyeballs – hitting as many touch points as possible and creativity has been left behind.

What brands must realize is that they have the opportunity to change culture through thoughtful, relevant and entertaining creative work. Go out with a message instead of following everyone one. Because people want brands to play a bigger role in society. India Wooldridge, McCann Truth Central’s SVP, director, also said that studies show that people “Are more likely to say the brands they buy represent their identity. Half of people have bought a product because it has stood up for something they believe in.”

Character builds culture

System 1’s chief innovation officer, Orlando Wood, and commercial director, Will Goodhand, outlined the brain science behind emotional responses to advertising. Advertising is becoming increasingly left-brain oriented – rational, goal orientated, repetitive and literal. This is in contrast to the nuance and storytelling of some of the best-loved ads from the last few decades.

“Over the last 10 years emotional response to advertising, particularly happiness, has been falling in line with effectiveness,” said Wood. He advised a more holistic approach, that brings together left- and right-brain thinking. “Advertising is a glue that holds society and culture together. Characters are common reference points for everybody who watches TV or looks at their phone.”

Explain “why” in a human way

Will AI wipe out planet or save it? The realty is somewhere in the middle. As we push into more challenging areas with AI, we are finding the need to explain why machines have made certain decisions.

Jamie Sergeant, global CEO at Crowd challenged people to find the humanity within technology. People are defined and shaped by culture, and so technology must “work in a slightly different way” for each audience, he said. Personalization is the only way to ensure we are providing something usable and human. He added that the best effective campaigns are when brands can get customers to become brand ambassadors. It’s moving from “straight advertising to building experiences” he said.

Be purposeful

“We’re forgetting some of the basics,” said Sid McGrath, chief strategy officer at Karmarama. He warned brands to stop thinking of people as customers and start thinking of them as humans.

McGrath said there is a “massive gap” between how brands choose to treat people and how people want to be treated – but there is huge money in getting it right. He revealed the results of Accenture Research and Karmarama’s study, Brand Nirvana: Closing the Human Experience Gap:  “People will spend up to 47% more money on brands that provide a human experience rather than a customer experience,” he said.

A massive part of this is having an authentic human purpose – a meaning beyond profit. But, he said, this doesn’t need to be about saving the world. It’s about being authentic and human. Empowering and inspiring your employees, and being able to remedy when you fail.

“Move from customer obsession to human obsession. Treat people as people not wallets.”