Inspire confidence with new reasons to trust
At a time when consumers are feeling uncertain about so many aspects of daily life that they used to take for granted, they are looking to brands they can trust.
For brands, trust has often been thought of as the result of doing everything else right. But when there is a crisis of trust, it’s important to have a proactive strategy in order to build and nurture it.
Consumers need to trust that the products and services they buy will work as described – that they’ll do “what it says on the tin”. And that’s why the idea of trust often brings to mind time-tested, large organisations that can say things like "Trusted by millions of loyal customers for over 100 years".
But trust runs deeper than fulfilling a functional promise and reflecting on past performance. In fact, trust can be the impetus behind consumers feeling confident enough to do something different, like buying a brand they’ve never tried before. In today’s world, being a trusted brand means being able to ask people to trust their informed judgement.
Consumers now want to know they can trust brands to source products and ingredients responsibly. They want suppliers and staff to be treated fairly and with respect. And they want to be sure that the environment is not being harmed.
If this sounds like adding a lot of expense into a business, then here’s the upside: Trust is strongly correlated with brand preference and equity. And the flipside of this is that lack of trust hugely undermines consumer relationships.
This year’s Top 75 brands ranking features some of the most trusted brands in the country, but between them there is a variation that has a direct impact on the ability of brands to win new consumers and build loyalty.
Brand Power is the BrandZ™ equity metric that describes the predisposition of consumers to choose a brand. It is closely linked to sales and brand value growth, and splitting the Top 75 according to their performance on trust illustrates the effect very clearly.
Trust in a changing world
Retaining or earning consumer confidence in a fast-changing environment requires a new way of thinking about trust. It is still essential that brands – and the businesses behind them – have proven expertise in their field that makes people feel secure about the products and services they buy.
But there are other, increasingly important aspects to trust that brands also need to offer. They need to inspire consumers expectations, both product performance and corporate behaviour, and they need to show they are highly responsible parts of people’s world.
These new precursors of consumer trust can be summarized into three action points for brands. They need to demonstrate the following:
Inclusion means treating everyone as equals and showing respect, and it can involve ceding some control over a brand to its customers, who will then feel invested in it. Dove is an outstanding example of inclusion in action, and this is something the brand has focused on for many years, making women of all sizes, shapes and backgrounds appreciate the diversity of real beauty. Its recent Project #ShowUs involved collecting over 10,000 images for use by the media and advertisers that reflect real women from all walks of life, without digital filtering.
Perceptions of integrity stem from a brand doing what it promises, admitting mistakes, and making amends when promises are broken. Traditional signifiers of integrity are things like the size of a business and how long it’s been around, or even association with institutions or figures of authority. But trust in many of these ideas has collapsed in recent times, and the public is looking for new ways of identifying integrity, so brands need to find new ways of demonstrating they have it.
Yorkshire Tea’s immediate response to a Twitter comment on the Black Lives Matter movement showed the power of integrity – as well as demonstrating the need to take time in order to plan meaningful action. The comment was: “I’m dead chuffed that Yorkshire Tea hasn’t supported BLM”. Yorkshire Tea responded: “Please don’t buy our tea again. We’re taking some time to educate ourselves and plan proper action before we post. We stand against racism. #BlackLivesMatter.” Rival brand PG Tips also joined the conversation: “If you are boycotting teas that stand against racism, you’re going to have to find two new tea brands now. #blacklivesmatter #solidaritea.”
Identification is being to make a connection at a human level, and this is one of the most powerful sources of trust in times of uncertainty. It rests on a brand’s ability to really “see” someone as an individual human being and relate to them in an open and caring way, much like a friend would do. The importance of identification is evident in the way people tend to be more forgiving of small brands - the “little guy” – and are often sceptical of big “faceless” corporations.
It boils down to caring for people – something most brands say they do, but few actually demonstrate. Cadbury’s campaign to raise awareness of loneliness among older people was a fine illustration of identification in action, and shows that big brands can achieve this as well as smaller ones. Cadbury removed all text from the front of its iconic purple Dairy Milk packaging, and “donated its words” to Age UK to the tune of 30p for every bar sold, helping fund essential services for older people.
Embrace your responsibilities … and not through CSR campaigns!
Being a responsible, ethical brand takes real commitment. Today’s discerning and resourceful consumers know when they smell a rat, and no amount of tree-planting, litter-picking and public donations to worthy causes will redeem a brand found to be faking it.
A brand’s performance on the BrandZ measure of responsibility is closely related to its Brand Power, and responsibility is a growing area of focus for consumers. It is now three times more important to reputation than it was 10 years ago, and this influence is likely to keep on rising.
BrandZ research into the way consumers form an opinion about the responsibility credentials of a brand shows that environmental sustainability is the leading consideration.
At first glance, the brands in the UK Top 75 this year perform pretty well when it comes inspiring consumer confidence, with an average Trust index score of 107 compared to 100 for the average brand in the UK.
But cast the net a little wider and it becomes clear that “quite good” isn’t good enough. When compared to the most valuable brands from other markets, UK brands have plenty of work to do if they are to build consumer trust and confidence.
On each of the three “I” factors – inclusion, integrity and identification – the UK ranks last out of the 15 markets above. It’s also last or close to it on all four aspects of responsibility: Environment (12th out of 15), Society (14th), Employees (13th) and Supply Chain (last).
The rise and fall of a fashion innovator
Logo here for Boohoo
New Entry into UK Top 75
Boohoo is a fashion brand created for the digital generation. It has used savvy marketing – including the clever use of TikTok, Instagram and online influencers – to thrive at a difficult time in the world of e-commerce.
In recent years, fashion brands have been facing growing demands for ever-better convenience and customer experiences, and doubts in some quarters about the ethics of cheap and fairly disposable fashion in a world where there’s already too much waste being generated.
But while others have faltered, including digital rival ASOS, which has lost 30 percent of its brand value this year and dropped 10 places in the Top 30 ranking (to #38), Boohoo has been thriving. BrandZ consumer research shows Boohoo is seen as playful, adventurous, sexy, rebellious and creative, and this has helped it succeed and grow.
However, in April this year, claims emerged of factory workers in Leicester working in unsafe conditions for less than the legal minimum wage. The news sent Boohoo shares tumbling 25 percent, wiping £1.3 billion off its market capitalisation. If proof were needed that the market expects brands to behave responsibly, this was it.
Boohoo reacted swiftly to the claims and pledged to put things right, fast, including by opening what it calls a “model factory” in Leicester that will be at the forefront of ethical, sustainable garment production. It has vowed to “act decisively” on any recommendations made by lawyers investigating its UK supply chain.
How much damage has been done to Boohoo’s brand – and how long it might take to recover – remains to be seen. BrandZ fieldwork for the Top 75 ranking was done shortly before the story broke, but shows that Boohoo had weak trust credentials to begin with, scoring just 94 compared to an average for UK brands of 100.
Among fashion retailers in the UK, it already ranked last in a list of 15 for treating its employees well and dealing fairly with suppliers. In a sense, then, it didn’t have much of a reputation to lose in this area, and less ground to recover in order to get back to where it was.
Time will tell whether consumers and shareholders’ faith is restored, but we know that business success built on poor practices is highly risky in a changed attitudinal environment.