The past year has seen major changes in all aspects of life. Between a global pandemic, social justice causes, economic turmoil, and increasing awareness about the environment, the world seemingly has been turned upside down. As a result, there has been a shift in the consumer mindset from “me” to “we.” People have become more aware of the issues that surround them in the world, and are demanding change, accountability, and increased communication.
Today, shoppers want brands that help make the world a better place, not just improve their consumers’ lives. According to Edelman’s Brand Trust survey in 2020, 85% of respondents want brands to solve their problems, while a comparable 80% want brands to solve society’s problems.
As a result, brand trust has gotten more important. Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer Special Report found that brand trust is even more important than brand love when it comes to deciding which brand to use.
Brands can no longer rest on the laurels of being long-beloved or well-regarded.
Consumers are asking for more: honesty and trustworthiness.
In 2021, trust is what drives growth. Per the same Edelman special report, shoppers who fully trust brands are more likely to advocate for and purchase from them. In fact, highly-trusted brands are seven times more likely to be purchased.
Brand trust is key for building a strong base of loyal customers. But how do brands build trust? By being authentic, transparent, and leading with their values.
Being Authentic As a Brand
The most important element to building trust is being authentic. “More than just large donations or empty platitudes, consumers want to see that brands actually care … And what’s more — consumers and prospective employees will hold them accountable like never before,” says Jason Mander, Chief Research Officer at GWI.
This is especially true during major social happenings, like the Black Lives Matter movement, or dedicated months, like Pride Month. Brands flock to show their support, but many don’t do anything to promote lasting change.
During the Black Lives Matter marches, brands showed their support for the movement with social media posts and advertising, but they were urged to do more. Sharon Chuter called out Nike in an Instagram post, saying, “We need to see those receipts. We love your campaigns but we need to know how many Black people you employ at a corporate level and executive level. Our culture has fed your brand. Show us how you feed us.”
Sharon, the founder of Uomo Beauty, also challenged fellow beauty brands to share the number of Black employees in corporate roles. A haircare brand, amika, not only shared their numbers but also announced a commitment to change with concrete go-forward actions. Consumers recognized the value of amika’s statement combined with action, as shown in this Instagram comment from @theblendedbeauty: “What I like here is that you were transparent but most importantly you’re willing to do the internal work. Which is more important than [sic] posting a black square.”
Leading With Brand Values
Being authentic and transparent naturally leads to being committed to positive causes and showcasing your brand values. 2021 is the year of “we,” and consumers want brands to use their power to bring results.
Shoppers will support brands that commit to change and give them the opportunity to believe in what they buy. According to Edelman, 86% of people expect brands to take one or more actions beyond their product and business, including giving money to good causes, addressing societal challenges, supporting local communities, and displaying representative images.
The CMO of Chipotle, Chris Brandt, has taken to emphasizing the brand’s purpose and values. Under his leadership, the brand launched its first tagline, “For Real,” to showcase its real ingredients that are farmed sustainably.
Brands should show that they not only understand social responsibility but also lead by example. Shoppers trust brands that live their values, from sustainability and fair trade to supporting relevant causes.
Building Brand Trust Through Content
Since authenticity and brand values are key to building trust, use branded content to showcase what you’re doing as a brand. Write blogs and thought pieces sharing your brand values. Make statements during world events — and be sure to stand by what you say. In advertising, highlight cornerstones of your brand, like “100% recyclable” or “cruelty-free” or “made in the USA,” that show consumers how you live your values.
As Katie Thomas at the Kearney Consumer Institute says, “Showcase core trust elements with thoughtful messaging. Build the foundation with consumers by identifying the right message, messenger, and platform. Invest in messaging and campaigns focused on honesty and consistency.”
By representing your brand and its values transparently in all messaging, you make yourself trustworthy. By acting responsibly within today’s world, you build this trust. “Trust grows from the foundation of honesty and credibility,” says Katie Thomas — so start there. Trust sells.