Higher consumer expectations make sustaining brand trust more difficult
But trust remains a vital driver of brand value
By Sunil Shetty
Senior Vice President & Head - Strategic Planning, Mumbai
The concept of brand is based on a fundamental relationship of trust between the consumer and the supplier of the product or service. The consumer trusts in the promise enshrined in the brand’s values and the brand gains an appropriate return when it consistently delivers on that promise.
However, there is a fundamental rethink in the concept of trust, which is evident among consumers. Consumers across the world increasingly are holding brands to a higher and stricter standard. Outsourcing manufacturing no longer outsources responsibility.
Today’s connected world exposes brands to an intense and sustained level of scrutiny, unimaginable in earlier days. The aspects on which the consumers place value no longer end with the product experience, but encompass the entire chain of value creation from manufacturing to the final product experience.
Brands need to carefully navigate this changed world to maintain the covenant between the brand and the consumer. This initiative is critical because trust is a critical factor in driving and sustaining brand value. Brands are a corporation’s most important intangible asset and trust is vital to protecting it.
To sustain trust, brands need to become uncompromising about ensuring that they live up to the promises they make to consumers. Studies have verified that trust is an important antecedent of both attitudinal and purchase loyalty. This has significant implications for the conversations that brands hold with consumers, which tend to focus largely on the product or service offering.
Reinforcing trust more difficult
Even as trust has become important for brands, traditional channels of reinforcing trust have become less effective. Word of mouth is today becoming a vital parameter in creating brand trust. Peer reviews influence the brands we select across categories, including hotels, food, coffee, cars and apparel.
Although trust in CEOs is rising, consumers still consider their peers to be more credible company spokespersons, according to recent research. But brands need to walk a fine line in leveraging the power of peer influence. It’s not enough for a peer review to be positive; it needs to be credible. To reinforce trust, it is vital that brands take steps such as these:
- Brand custodians need to treat initiatives that boost trust as critically as they treat their investments in product, service, and advertising.
- Brands need to be vulnerable. A misstep or an error if acknowledged and rectified is potentially a trust-building opportunity rather than a trust-eroding event.
- Brands need to be loyal, because loyalty is not a one-way street. Ask yourself—as a brand, are you being loyal to the consumer?
- Brands need to build emotional brand connections; these are more likely to be trusted than a purely rational relationship.
Brand Building Action Points
1. Be truthful to the brand promise
The promise implicit in the brand-consumer relationship is sacrosanct and must be treated as such. Brands need to ensure that they reflect their values throughout the value chain.
2. Be consistent
Consistency is the key to creating trust, because consistency is evidence that the brand is keeping its promise
3. Be simple
Focus on the essence of the brand and reduce complexity. A brand will always find it easier to remain true to a sharp and well-defined identity. It is far easier to keep one clear and well-understood promise rather than many diverse promises.
4. Be consistent across the consumer journey
In an omni-channel world, it is vital to take a comprehensive view to ensure that the consumer experiences the brand in a consistent manner.