Brand Trust Matters (Here’s How You Build It)

To say that we live in strange times is an understatement. We’re surrounded by disruption. Every long-held assumption is being tested. The world of branding is no exception. With more channels to communicate, one could think it’d be easier than ever to build brands and connect with customers. And yet, people consistently struggle to find the signal among the noise both online and off.

This is a problem for a couple of different reasons. First and most obvious, if you can’t build your brand and connect with customers your business is in trouble. Second, if you can overcome these challenges and connect in a meaningful way, the reward can be greater than you expect. That’s because connecting in a more meaningful way is exactly what consumers are looking for from brands today.

A new breakout report from the annual Edelman Trust Barometer titled In Brands We Trust shows that more people trust businesses than government. While some may note that “government trust” doesn’t exactly set a high bar, the data goes on to show that a growing majority of consumers expect brands to take a more active role in society. Consumers are backing this up with their pocketbooks by increasingly buying goods and services based on belief.

However, there’s an obstacle to connecting with these customers: Trust.

The Truth About Trust

We want to trust brands more than entities like government for a pretty practical reason. We have to. The Edelman data notes that today’s consumers have growing concerns about products (many can’t afford a bad purchase) and customer care (personal data security) as well as brands’ impact on society. This latter point specifically speaks to the fact that people want the brands they’re associated with to express their values. This calls for brands to be more involved in societal issues.

A false assumption is that societal impact is a trailing consumer concern—a “nice to have,” not a “need to have.” In fact, the data shows that this is actually the top concern. It’s also a top buying consideration with 81% of respondents noting “I must be able to trust the brand to do what is right.”

Another mistaken assumption? That this belief is tied solely to millennials. Trust is essential across all markets, ages, and incomes. And when brands build trust, consumers reward them by buying first, staying local, advocating, and defending them when necessary. Once again, when compared against trust in products and trust in customer care, trust in a brand’s societal impact is the greatest multiplier of these rewards.

Trust is key. The problem? Only one in three say they can trust most of the brands they buy from. At a time when consumers crave trust, few brands are focusing on building it.

How to Build Brand Trust

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed by Edelman say, “every brand has a responsibility to get involved in at least one social issue that does not directly impact its business.” Many already do this—especially small and medium-sized businesses. However, it isn’t always shared as publicly as it should be as only 21% say the brands they use keep the best interests of society in mind. If you’re not involved in any issues, find one to connect with. Look for something that is on-brand for you—aligned with your beliefs and those of your core customers.

Coming full circle back to the challenges of standing out today, we see that trust has an impact here as well. If consumers feel they can trust you, they’re more likely to pay attention to your advertising and other marketing communications. Furthermore, as you use more marketing channels it not only amplifies your message—it amplifies trust in that message. (For those wondering, the third channel your message is repeated across is key to strengthening brand trust. Translation: employ at least three or more channels.)

Be careful, though. It’s not all about blasting your message. Just as companies that turn their logo green for Earth Day or include the recycling symbol on packaging but continue with business as usual are accused of “greenwashing,” you need to ensure you’re not “trustwashing” by backing your words up with action.

Gillette has run some powerful ads on a variety of important issues but what are they doing to affect change? Contrast that with a company like Lush. From day one the cosmetics retailer has built their brand on fresh, natural products with environmentally responsible packaging. Lush communicates this consistently across their many brand touchpoints but they ultimately earn trust by walking their talk.

Standout Brands Stand for Something

Again, today trust in brands is a “need to have” for consumers across all demographics. If they can’t trust you—your products, your service, and your commitment to the world we all live in together—they won’t pay attention to you and they won’t buy from you. However, when you close these gaps they’ll reward you with trust and loyalty.

Standout brands stand for something. Remember that and you’ll be on your way to standing out in the hearts and minds of those you serve.