Trust in government, business, media and NGOs has declined substantially since 2012, according to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer. Marketers in every sector are struggling against the same tide, fighting to win back consumers’ trust in a world of data breaches and fake news.
A recent report by a recent study carried out by Kantar TNS1 found that in developed markets like the USA and France just 21% and 15% of consumers, respectively, trusted global brands. The report also highlighted that 40% of consumers globally are concerned about the level of personal data brands have on them. The question that brands and their marketers are left with is how to foster consumer trust and, in turn, brand loyalty.
What is Consumer Trust and Why is it Important?
The idea of consumer trust isn’t a new one. It was first developed in 2004, by Glen L Urban, who posited that honesty and transparency are the best paths towards building consumer trust. Known as ‘trust-based marketing’, the theory proposed that offering consumers impartial advice and respect, along with all-inclusive product options, increases brand loyalty and maximises the potential for long-term profitability with each customer.
The trust between a consumer and a brand is just as important as any other relationship. When a brand is able to make a genuine, truthful connection with a consumer, then an incredible thing happens; it creates genuine loyalty, increases sales, and the likelihood customers will recommend you to others. A recommendation from a friend or colleague is far more powerful than your promise.
Which Brands Do Consumers Trust Most?
Forrester’s report has found that the leading, most-trusted brands have customer-centricity at their core; it’s who they are, rather than something that they do. In addition, these tend to be value-led businesses, which treat their employees well, in addition to offering high-quality products and services. The treatment of employees featured as one of the most important factors in fostering consumer trust, with consumers believing that how a business treats its employees is a good reflection on how it treats its customers.
The report also found that businesses who serve clear communities serve better than those who go for mass-market appeal. Brands, such as Etsy, Lego and Adidas all feature in the top 10 of the most-trusted brands in the world, according to a study by Cohn & Wolfe. Apple is also up there, as a result of its commitment to consumer-driven values, such as only using materials from renewable sources which, while it can increase the cost of the final product, resonates with its consumer base.
Some brands are already taking steps to engage with consumers against the backdrop of falling trust in institutions. Some get certified as a Benefit Corporation (B Corps), some operate as social enterprises. These are often relatively new companies that are not behemoths in their industries. And they try to assert their unique value proposition through being socially conscious. Usually, we see consumer-facing brands at the forefront of this since they’re closer to the public. That doesn’t mean business-facing or B2B brands can’t make an impact.
Basecamp — a popular project management/team collaboration software — is not shy about sharing their opinions on things like racism or the harmful effects of technology (even though they’re in tech). And they recently made it to Forbes’ Small Giants list, recognising small companies in the US that “value greatness over growth.”
Conversely, brands that are seen to try and be everything to everyone, such as Amazon, have slipped in the customer experience score ratings.
How do Brands Generate Consumer Trust?
The main watchword for those wishing to foster consumer trust and brand loyalty is ‘authenticity’. Brands that remain true to their values are seen as infinitely more trustworthy than those who are prepared to bend in the wind or who stage insincere experiences. A good example of superficiality backfiring can be seen in the Pepsi campaign, which saw American model, Kendal Jenner appearing to diffuse a stalemate with police, by handing one of the police a can of the drink. After intense criticism on social media, the ad was withdrawn.
Ultimately, authenticity is an earned perception resulting from a consistent symbiotic and relevant relationship between a brand and its audiences. This relationship is nurtured over time through remarkable brand experiences and content.
What Can Brands Do?
Develop your authenticity by better understanding your market.
The good news is that behavioural insights, coupled with an understanding of consumer attitudes and current preferences, can help brands create authentic branding and content that engages audiences without inspiring cynicism and mistrust. A strong data analytics programs can help track and analyse these trends and variables over time to ensure brands keep a pulse on how to engage their audiences with relevant and relatable narratives.