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Any age brand, in any category, can inspire trust and protect it

Brand Building Best Practices

Trust | Ticking the boxes

Any age brand,

in any category,

can inspire trust

and protect it

But cultivating trust takes

time and constant care

by Bikram Bindra

Vice President and Strategic Planning Head



Trust seems to be a new buzz word in marketing circles these days, and is being hailed as that magical ingredient that helps certain brands become bolder, bigger, and better and trigger disproportionate growth. Indeed, trust can help not just in strengthening existing bonds but also spark new connections inducing trials in a cut-throat environment.

But is trust easy to inspire, and does it come as easily to new age entrants as it does to century-old behemoths that have often enjoyed near monopolistic situations? The answer is simple—the building blocks of brand trust don’t typically discriminate; irrespective of the nature of business, the type of consumer and even the complexity of the category, anyone has as an equal and fair go at it.

The solution however, isn’t as effortless. It requires time and patience with one eye on the ground and the other hovering above like a drone. It warrants a combination of all of the below factors:

  1. Start with purpose

Purpose is an old marketing mantra, but the new age twist to it is that it now needs to leap out of advertising into action that is visible. When IKEA promises to “create a better everyday life for the many people” it doesn’t just mean consumers, but also retailers and suppliers and manufacturers, all of whom benefit from its 2020 sustainability strategy.

  1. Connect with the culture

Of course, great purpose usually rests on the bedrock of a larger cultural foundation, one that immediately talks to the larger forces of a particular time. Airbnb has leveraged our state of constant displacement and the deeper need for affinity to boldly proclaim the possibility of belonging anywhere.

  1. Appeal to emotion

Sometimes trust magically happens when brands stop seeing their consumers as agents for driving business and instead see them as individuals who have concerns beyond the category. Brands like Omo and Surf Excel, or Tata Tea, have elevated product functionality with empathic human stories that have resonated.

  1. Communicate with consistency

The power of consistency pays rich dividends and having distinctive assets that remain unchanged helps build strong bonds. It is no surprise that a lot of the legacy brands in any market are highly trusted. Think Marmite, Horlicks, and Marks & Spencer. A classic example is Amul, whose jingle the ‘Taste of India’ tagline, the Amul girl, and of course, the perennial marker of the times print ads all bring a warm smile to everyone who has ever interacted with the brand.

  1. Be honest

Ultimately, of course, the truth inside your bottle or bar goes a long way, and how your product attribute delivers to drive preference consistently is the hallmark of a trustworthy brand. In a world of dikhawa (pretence), good old-fashioned honesty and transparency is what really reflects in brands that have stood the test of time. This includes owning up when you err and taking corrective action that helps make the bond stronger, like what Maggi and Cadburys did after their respective trials by fire.

Pantanjali, the enfant terrible of the FMCG sector and the natural and herbal wave it triggered, is a perfect example of a brand that seems to have ticked all the boxes. Nostalgia and a back-to-the-roots movement drive trust for Pantanjali by not just appealing to the current cultural narrative, but also touching deeper human sentiments.

And of course, there is a distinctive voice that the brand has maintained, and certain assets that have come to define the brand, starting with clearly the most hard-working brand ambassador of our times, Baba Ramdev. Most importantly though, a sharp well-defined purpose and an unwavering attitude of “down with the multinationals,” and pride for all things Indian has remained a unifying motivation for the company.

This attitude is showcased not just in product lines and ingredients used, but also the setting up of a Patanjali Seva Kendra (a local charitable association) devoted to yoga, ayurveda, and even cow welfare. In addition, the brand has introduced an Indian chat service, Kimbho, pegged as a Swadeshi option to attack the “foreign” WhatsApp head on.

However, the critical and fifth component of trust, the element of honesty, could prove to be the proverbial Achilles heel for our home-grown hero. With product doubt rearing up once in a while, Patanjali needs to realize that trust painstakingly earned can vanish like an ephemeral mayfly. Think of the manifestations of trust in an old friend—someone who always has your back, listens to you and give you honest advice, is there with you through thick and thin, and keeps pace with your changing reality. Built slowly but surely, why shouldn’t the relationship with a loved brand be the same?