The Trust Gap

I spent the last week in Iceland the same idea kept cropping up:

Businesses and by extension products don’t trust people enough

I think this is a byproduct of the idea that every business should be able to capture every customer, if only things are spelled out plainly and loudly enough.  By assuming that you can reach everyone you fail to target your natural customers and end up diluting the effectiveness of your brand.

Nowhere was this more apparent to me than on Laugavegur in Reykjavík, Iceland.

A hyper concentrated cluster of over-marketed retail ‘opportunity’.

A street that has been utterly culturally carpet bombed by crass, loud and lowest common denominator messaging to the point that walking down said street is reductive to the whole idea of being a tourist in another country.

None of the businesses up and down this street trusted their potential customers to discern the value of their products.  All was spelled out, in English, and illustrated in large print photos and diagrams.

Restaurants loudly proclaimed: Italian Restaurant! Authentic Italian Food! Pasta – Meatballs – Bread! in both English and Icelandic.

Near the start of Laugavegur. Next door to this was an English Pub named… “English Pub”

In their effort to capture anyone who might want to visit an Italian restaurant, the ambiance one might want from an Italian dining experience is lessened.

A consequence of all the businesses on this street following the same methods means the draw of visiting Iceland’s main shopping street has evaporated outside of the simple gravitational pull of many businesses being in one central location.

Authenticity and trust have been exchanged for maximum value extraction.  But they’ve missed the forest for the trees and collectively lowered the value of the entire shopping district.

Building these same businesses: Bars, restaurants, tourist shops, with a sense of trust that visitors can gleam value for themselves would help raise the level of authenticity and sense of place of the street and in turn deliver real value to each business by customers that self select the experience they want.

I think this lesson applies more broadly everywhere, but the shock of seeing this in such a pronounced way in my once quaint home town forced me to put these thoughts to [digital] paper.

I trust you’ll gather my general intent.