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Dialogue helps cultivate trust with skeptical consumers

Thought Leadership

 Trust | Dialogue

Dialogue helps cultivate trust with skeptical consumers

Consumers who believe in a brand, become its strongest advocates

by Sanjana Mathur

Strategist and Client Manager



Trust has found its way into nearly every conversation about branding. And why not, when trust can be the difference between making a profit and making a loss? This is especially true in a trust-deficit nation like India. But as any frustrated marketer knows, it isn’t that simple. Adding trust to the corporate values of a company doth, not a trusted brand make. It takes more than the color blue and lots of expert jargon to convince consumers who are increasingly informed and skeptical. What’s a brand to do?

The first step is understanding the very nature of trust itself. We often speak of brand trust as though it is something that brands own. It is not. Trust cannot be manufactured, certainly not by companies alone. Trust is a consumer’s response to things that you do. It is the consumer’s currency that brands must earn, over and over again. The real task at hand for our marketing brainpower—effectively managing the trust response.

Trust is a human bond. Companies with the boon of heritage certainly benefit from their long-established consumer relationships, which can make them feel like old family friends. But what about brands that don’t have the advantage of time and legacy on their side?

Evoking fresh trust in today’s world is like cultivating a new friendship. Here’s what it takes to befriend modern India’s savvy, smartphone-toting consumers.

Make a promise, keep a promise

Although an excerpt from Branding 101, this is the simple key to consumer trust. Brands that succeed are the ones that clearly define what they offer and are able to consistently keep their promises across all touchpoints. Domino’s Pizza’s 30-minute delivery guarantee has drilled the brand’s speed into the minds of Indian consumers. IndiGo Airlines built its brand on the promise of being “on-time.” Conversely, delayed flights mean broken promises and broken trust.

That said…

Be ready for when the going gets rough

The hallmark of a good relationship is one that can weather the good times and the bad. Similarly, brands that distinguish themselves in times of crisis forge a special connection with their consumers.

In an ideal world, every consumer experience would be a good one. However, there will be situations when brands fail to deliver. This is the crucial inflection point at which great brands can harness a potentially negative experience and use it to establish trust instead.

Amazon’s hassle-free refunds are a great example of this. The ease and immediacy of the process reassures consumers that they will be looked after, giving them reason to choose the e-retailer for their next purchase too.

It may even inspire them to recommend the brand.

Let someone vouch for you

Chances are that most of the new people you meet are through mutual acquaintances. So, it is for brands as well. Most people choose brands based on recommendations from friends, family, and increasingly from strangers on the internet.

Brands have traditionally tried to do this by paying celebrity endorsers (and more recently social media influencers). However, the savvy consumer can sniff out an expensive endorsement contract from a mile away. Even more so, when there is a mismatch between product and endorser.

In defiance of the high investment that brands make on this front, consumers armed with their smartphones are seeking out unbiased, third-party opinions to inform their decisions. YouTube product comparisons, Zomato reviews, TripAdvisor advice, Uber ratings. A new opportunity has arisen for brands—treat your customers right and let them be your greatest brand advocates.

So, how do you empower your consumers?

Be transparent, be vulnerable, be open

Trust is a two-way street, and brands must master this dialogue.

When Flipkart introduced cash-on-delivery in India, the brand took the onus of trust upon itself, addressing a crucial pain point for Indian consumers. From being able to track deliveries every step of the way, to food packaging that clearly highlights nutritional information, to financial institutions that cut the jargon—empowering the consumer goes a long way in creating a trusting relationship. Having open channels for consumer feedback and questions ensures that the consumer voice is heard, loud and clear. Some brands take this a step further, and encourage consumers to take ownership of the brand, like Maggi did with the “Meri Maggi” campaign, which asked consumers to share their stories about eating Maggi noodles.

The pattern is evident. There is a fundamental paradigm shift upon us. The gap between brands and consumers has narrowed drastically and the playing field has been leveled, which is why brands must keep one thing in mind. Brand rhetoric no longer leads to trust. Trust comes from conversation. The brands having these conversations successfully are the ones that will win the consumer’s trust.