We in the marketing and public relations business talk a lot about brand trust. Do we walk it?
With trust, simply put, you have a chance to succeed with prospects and customers. Without it, well, you do the math. In data-driven marketing, where data is often described as the currency of customer engagement, here, too, trust is the bank.
Right now, sad to say, trust appears to be available only at a premium. There seems to be less and less of it at a time when we really need more and more of it. This is societal. It’s not just advertising and business where trust may be in short supply. Government, institutions, education, medicine, media all seem to be scrutinized, with a loss of trust in the balance. At a time when and where factual information has never been so available and transparent, fears of misinformation, opacity, and malevolence also appear to be heightened.
Believability is at risk.
I can’t fathom how to regain trust in all these institutions just now. But I can think of our world of marketing. Brand, and brand trust, matter more precisely now, because trust everywhere appears in short supply.
Recently, Edelman, a global public relations concern, published its annual “Trust Barometer” report, looking at trust issues among consumers across eight nations, among them the United States. I find the results illuminating, because it helps provide a blueprint of where brands might concentrate efforts to bolster trust.
MarketingCharts.com summarized some of the findings here:
(Re)Gain the Trust — Some Insights From the Report
Here’s my take on eight areas of the findings:
Product Must Perform
While it’s increasingly a customer-centric world, product still matters. Quality, performance, convenience — consumers won’t even entertain trust if the produce/service fails the bar. In fact, it’s the biggest trust factor. Reputation may enable consumer consideration, but 67% of customers report they won’t come back if the product fails. More than eight in 10 consumers cite quality, convenience, value, and brand trust as a “deal breaker” or “deciding factor” in a purchase decision.
Trust: Why Now?
Consumers report several reasons why trusting brands is more important: 62% cite concerns about product experience (can’t afford a bad purchase, need products to keep pace with innovation, and reliance on brands for increased automation); 55% about customer experience (use of personal data, use of tracking and targeting, and use of artificial intelligence in customer service); and 69% about societal impact (fake news and misinformation, brand involvement in social issues, and affinity with personal values).
Yet There’s Considerable Room for Improvement
Just 34% of consumers trust most of the brands they buy and use. While some might see this as in indictment, I choose to see it as a huge opportunity. In the United States, overall, 54% trust businesses to do the right thing — trust in government, by the way, is 40% .
The Trust Dividend Is Real
When trust is earned, the payback is pronounced. The difference between not fully trusting brands and trusting brands for a long time is a 28-point lift in percentage when considering what brand to buy first; 33-point lift in staying loyal; 27-point lift in being an advocate; and a 21-point lift in defending a brand.
We Must Walk the Talk
Remember greenwashing environmental benefits? “Trustwashing” is also a concern regarding brands and authenticity. Worldwide, 56% of consumers feel too many brands use societal issues as a marketing tactic to sell more product. Trust in business vs. trust in government has fallen off year-over-year between 4% and 6% in brands’ ability to effect positive change on societal impacts. If you’re buying into social good, it had better be the real deal. That means an enterprise commitment that’s followed through — rather than a marketing promotion.
Most Consumers Have Taken Steps to Avoid Ads
I think it’s a mistake to say all ads are held in low esteem — they’re not. Other surveys have shown that eight in 10 consumers still rely on advertising to discover new products and services. But three in four consumers have taken steps in their lives – ad blocking, paid subscriptions, and changed media habits — to curtail the amount of advertising they see. More than three-fourths of consumers says they pay attention to ads from brands they trust!
Enable Reviews — and Influencer Involvement
Most consumers say they trust what others say about a brand, more than what the brand says in advertising about itself. Working in combination — peer review then owned, paid, or social content (ads) can work together to lift trust.
Interestingly, the more saturated the message (meaning, engagement across media channels), the greater chance for trust. One might think this doesn’t square with the previous ad avoidance message, but it goes to show repetition and reinforcement work. But only when the message is on-point, resonates with the user, and conveys authenticity.
Those of us who worry and work a lot about “trust” — we have some mighty work to do. But even in an age of consumer skepticism — or simply skepticism — the hard, honest work of trust-building often becomes its own greatest reward, regardless of business payback. Despite all the doubts and pushback, consumers do want to believe this necessary work is getting done, and brands and ourselves can be all the better for it.