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A safe port in a storm: Earning trust in tumultuous times


Valentina Meli

Senior Researcher

Kantar TNS Italia - TEB (Technology Empowered Business)



 Terrorism alerts, migration emergencies, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump: today in Italy, we are experiencing the repercussions of major large-scale changes that have taken place around the world in the past year.


Debates on these issues have led to the rise of extreme positions, often resulting in populist or nationalist tendencies. Generally speaking, a rampant sense of injustice, intolerance and impatience prevails over optimism and hope. A feeling of widespread distrust is reflected in people's daily lives. So, how can a brand working within this framework break through and established trust? From the consumer's point of view, what inspires trust and leads to a “circle of trust”? Here are five expressions of consumer sentiment that can determine whether or not a brand is trusted.


1.         “I trust those who are like me.”

We believe in our peers or equals – those who spontaneously share their experiences online. When it comes to brand communication, we are more likely to believe people who seem to be like us or reflect an aspect of our lives; not a celebrity, but someone who looks like me, speaks like me, or feels the same emotions I do. Brands showing they understand this include Diesel, which celebrates the imperfection of the human being in their new campaign “Go With The Flaw”, and Dove, in its “Real Beauty” campaigns showing a range of body types in its selection of models.

*Keywords: credibility, authenticity, human, empathy, understatement


2.          “I trust those who understand me.”

There is the feeling of closeness, and therefore trust, towards a brand that can offer tailored products and services that individuals feel are really meeting their daily needs. To some extent, the brand is truly useful and somehow “simplifies my life”. It does this by communicating in a direct and real way, without flights of fancy. Food delivery services that allow consumers to have a restaurant meal in their own home appreciate this – brands like Foodora and Deliveroo, and Italian brands Foodora and Foodinho.

·      Keywords: focus, effectiveness, personalization, “my moment”


  1.  “I trust those who involve me.”

The brand that opens its doors and lets us spy on the world, showing it to us without deception, is one that invites scrutiny and therefore trust. This takes courage and reflects humility and a sincere desire for the consumer to not only be a spectator, but also a co-author or collaborator, with a clear benefit for the participant in return. The Italian beer brand Ceres shows how this is done, by involving the audience in conversations through social networks.


o    *Keywords: transparency, generosity, engagement, collaboration, participation, inclusion, reward  


  1. “I trust those who prove they deserve it.”

o   The expert we look to for reassurance is often someone prominent in social media discussions around a specific audience segment or product category. With more perceived integrity than a brand’s own expert, this is the ordinary person who becomes a personality or influencer, thanks to the credibility they have built up in a certain area. It is a meritocracy democratically decreed by the number of followers signing up.  Salvatore Aranzulla is an IT expert who has become an online star by creating YouTube tech tutorials. This is a great way to earn trust.


* Keywords: spontaneity, horizontality, truth


  1. “I trust those who are serious.”

Brands that turn their promises into concrete action through real “tests” win trust. They promote positive actions that give an advantage not only to the individual consumer, but also to the extended community. They become models and guarantees of seriousness from an ethical viewpoint as well. Warby Parker, the international eyewear retailer, exemplifies this with their “Buy A Pair, Give A Pair” campaign, which donates a pair of glasses to someone in the developing world for every pair bought online. In Italy, the supermarket chain Carrefour invited the public to vote online for the non-profit organization that the brand should support, and made a donation of €500,000.

* Keywords: responsibility, ethics, values, pragmatism, experience  


In practice, there are several clear ways that brands can establish and nurture trust:

-           Respect the security of people’s personal data;

-           Reward trust with dedicated events, personalized discounts and free gifts;

-           Engage people, perhaps through contests and gamification, in order to create a community, which can spontaneously become a real “tribe”.


In communication, it is important to tell a brand's story and talk about its plans, from its origins to its future intentions, honestly and transparently. It should not be forgotten that each message should be relevant, engaging and significant for consumers. It’s still the case that content is king when it comes to winning the distracted consumer’s attention.