Conversation with Mark Cripps, CMO, The Economist

Trust, value exchange and staying relevant in the digital age: Mark Cripps, CMO, The Economist, shares his views iProspect. 
How would you define consumer trust and what do you think are the main drivers of trust?

Trust is part of an individual’s belief system. In the specific instance of consumer trust, it is defined as an individual’s belief that brands and their products and services will perform as promised – as advertised and as per previously experienced.

The Economist is a globally recognised brand in terms of publications and news. In the digital age, where readers have more choice than ever, how are you ensuring that your brand remains not only recognisable, but also a reputable and reliable news source? 


Increased competition for both mind and wallet-share means that we have to fight harder. In that sense, brands are more important than ever. Recognising that people have a choice, brand saliency is very much front of mind for us. We use several metrics to measure and manage this including awareness; relevance; preference and propensity to pay. Our brand trust stems from the quality and trusted nature of our content and therefore we surface the content in our marketing wherever and whenever possible. We do so whilst deploying established trust cues – that’s design and text based (colours deployed, language used etc.).

In 2018, we celebrated our 175th anniversary. For most of that time, we were available exclusively in print, in long-copy format and published on a weekly cadence. Today, we distribute our content on a vast array of platforms; produce it weekly; daily (and hourly in some instances) and in many formats. Noticeably our audio content is reaching new audiences who are demographically at variance from our core subscription base. I’m confident we’ll be around for another 175 years!

Listen to the excellent podcast of The Economist on SoundCloud


Data and technology are the lifeblood of the digital economy. How does The Economist balance the needs for personalisation and privacy to build trust on the long term? Do you think technology enables deeper relationships or conversely that it is a factor of mistrust? 


Legislation, such as GDPR, should be considered as an opportunity for brands. Being data-responsible is a differentiator. It is a balance; we need to be on the right side of creepy. The balance aspect is important as that infers an exchange of some kind. As marketers, exchange is at the very core of what we do (offering goods and services usually in exchange for money). For the exchange to occur (and ideally be repeated), it has to be equitable, reciprocated, transparent and mutually beneficial. That’s what we seek to do.

Regarding technology, I’m interested in the construct of “Computers as Actors or Agents”, which has attracted a great deal of academic attention. Research indicates that, where they are aware that they’re engaging with technology, people are increasingly prone to disclosing (more) personal information than if they are invited to disclose to a human. As responsible marketers, we can take advantage of this, responsibly, and capitalise on the value exchange.

“Increased competition for both mind and wallet-share means that we have to fight harder. In that sense, brands are more important than ever.”


This article is excerpted from Future Focus 2019: Searching for Trust.  Download Future Focus 2019 for key insights and success stories on navigating truth and authenticity in 2019.