Building and maintaining trust with consumers has always been an important engagement strategy for brands. However, given the significant challenges of the past year, establishing trust has been elevated from just an important engagement strategy to a critical commercial imperative.
Gartner defines brand trust as “a consumer’s trust and belief that a company will consistently follow through on its stated intention and provide support over time.” In other words, do consumers believe that a brand will do what it says it will do, and that it will continue to do it. Additionally, consumers’ perception of a brand’s trustworthiness goes beyond its stated benefits. It also includes how a brand treats its customers, its employees, and society as a whole.
There's a significant upside to getting this right, as Gartner survey data tells us that high levels of trust leads to a 40 percent boost in brand preference and an 18 percent boost in brand loyalty. Conversely, 81 percent of consumers refuse to do business with (i.e., purchase) from a brand they find untrustworthy. Even more concerning, 89 percent of consumers would take action against a brand that breaches their trust.
There are three common messaging strategies available to all brands to establish and maintain trust with consumers:
- Brands can build trust by showing their “caring” side and connecting with consumers on an emotional level.
- Brands can build trust by showing their “authentic” side and staying true to their stated values.
- Brands can build trust by focusing on “dependability” and boosting confidence that they can deliver their stated benefits.
When we look at current brand messaging, we quickly find that “caring” is the most prominent strategy deployed by brands in order to build trust with consumers. While this was the case before COVID, brands have significantly ramped up their “we are all in this together” messaging in the last 12 months. However, is this the most effective way to build and sustain brand trust?
As part of our survey, consumers were asked to rate their overall perception of trust for a specific brand on a seven-point Likert scale. Respondents were then asked follow-up questions to assess their perception of that brand as either caring, authentic, or dependable. This helped to reveal the impact of these three strategies on overall brand trust.
Through this analysis, we learned that while caring is good, authentic is better, but dependable is best! More specifically, whatever the amount of trust a brand gets by demonstrating that it cares, it gets 2.5x more trust by demonstrating authenticity, and a staggering 3.6x more trust by demonstrating dependability. Simply put, the best way to establish trust with consumers is by boosting their confidence that your brand can deliver its stated benefits. As we dug into the “why,” we learned that consumers recognize that brands are businesses, not people, and trust in human-to-business relationships is established through transactional value exchange, rather than through an emotional connection.
Showing that your brand cares or empathizes with consumers isn't a bad thing, however, your trust-building strategy shouldn't disregard the importance of demonstrating dependability. The good news is that brands don't have to choose one over the other. Remember that while caring, authenticity and dependability get you trust, there's a significant upside to boosting consumer confidence that you can deliver on your stated benefits.