Is Your Brand All Talk and No Action? Why Consumer Trust Is Harder to Earn Than Ever

Why do consumers lose trust in a brand? Is it a single misstep that draws public ire, or is it a slow erosion that takes place over years? Edelman’s well-respected 2019 Trust Barometer Survey provides some clarity on which brands have been successful in building consumer trust and which have fallen short. Across the board, respondents stated that they expect a brand’s purpose to align with its actions. Dove and Heineken are two companies that heed that advice.

Dove Men+Care celebrates a new definition of strength: one with care at its center. Dove’s “Fatherhood Mission” is to champion active fatherhood worldwide so that every dad has the support they need to care for those who matter most. To better deliver on that mission, the company established a $1 million fund to cover paternity leave for new dads. Similarly, Heineken is supporting its “Designated Driver’s Pledge” by redesigning community bars to discourage drunk driving. Both brands are putting their purpose into action.

Conversely, Facebook has struggled to maintain brand trust due to security breaches and a lack of transparency. A few years ago, the social media giant allowed tech companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, to access customers’ email addresses and other personal information. In a recent earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged: “One critique of our approach for much of the last decade was we wanted to be liked … and we didn’t always communicate our views as clearly [as we could] because we were worried about offending people.” Critics argue Facebook changes its stance and dodges questions under scrutiny; the organization has a long way to go to regain consumers’ trust.

So how can a brand establish or regain consumer trust? We propose three key tenets:

  • Deliver on your purpose: Do what you say you’re going to do
  • Be honest and authentic in all communications with your stakeholders
  • Be transparent

Delivering on your purpose is key to building trust with both internal and external audiences. Today, employees and customers look for companies whose purpose aligns with their personal beliefs and values. More than ever, these individuals are educated and informed—so when a brand says one thing and does another, it does not go unnoticed.

Honest, authentic communication includes advertising and social media outreach. As social media proliferates, so too does misleading or downright fake engagement. Some influencers use smoke and mirrors to portray impactful engagement and downplay their affiliation with a brand; consumers can see right through this inauthenticity. Ultimately, influencers need to earn trust and credibility through authentic and honest communication.

The last tenet, transparency, runs parallel to honest communication. Naturally, brands will make mistakes that jeopardize trust from time to time. However, it is the way the situation is handled that makes all the difference. The “Zoombombing” phenomenon, where pranksters join Zoom calls and broadcast shocking videos, provides one recent example.

Zoom was criticized for its lax security protocols, especially given the surge in usage with school-aged children. To Zoom’s credit, CEO Eric Yuan publicly admitted the mistake, accepted responsibility and committed to implementing fixes. Consumers don’t want to hear excuses—they want the truth. To that end, an honest “I don’t know,” can actually help to build brand trust, as long as you’re working towards a solution and exercising transparency throughout the process. To learn more about building brand trust in a time of crisis, read our recent blog, Purpose Vs. Panic.

In today’s market, trust is earned—not inherently granted. When a consumer trusts a brand, they can become a powerful and influential advocate, helping to amplify your message beyond traditional advertising. As you consider your branding strategy at this unprecedented moment for business, what steps will you take to earn your audience’s trust?

To learn more about this topic or to discuss an issue impacting your business, contact Bailey’s Vice President of Client Services, Jamie Gailewicz, at 610-818-3103 or click here to contact us via [email protected].


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