Getting answers to the questions of trust

What works for one brand in winning consumers trust won’t necessarily work for another, says Victoria Scott

Victoria%20ScottDo I trust my deodorant? Do I trust my car to get me to work in the morning and my chosen airline to deliver the safest possible holiday flights for my family? You bet I do. Not being able to rely on these chosen brands would mean no friends, no job and no live. But what about the chocolate I eat, or the shampoo I use? I used to think these choices were only affected by personal preferences in taste and packaging, but it seems there’s much closer relationship between these products and consumer trust than I’d previously imagined.

The latest European Trusted Brands study by Reader’s Digest not only reveals which brands consumers trust the most, but what factors are driving that trust. For the first time, respondents were asked to rate how important various factors are in their decision to trust a brand and their scale of influence. The results reveal how much subconscious belief systems influence our trust in brands and therefore our propensity to purchase, repeat purchase and recommend.

As you’d expect, the factors that drive and influence our trust vary dramatically for each category. You’d certainly expect that what influences a consumer’s trust in a skincare product will be different to what makes them trust an airline company, but what specifically are these influences?

For British Airways, the statement “cares about its customers” scored as highly with respondents as liking their advertising and logo. However, as one would expect, the degree of influence customer care has on trust for BA is much higher. On the down side, the company is not seen to have a sense of humour, which customers sub-consciously rate as important. Perhaps a little personality and attitude may work wonders in its ongoing contretemps with the infamous knitted jumper brigade.

But compare this with Nivea, which has been named most-trusted brand within the skincare category for the past three years. For Nivea, “sense of humour” is the last thing people are looking for, having one of the lowest possible correlations with trust of all the drivers. “Understanding what customers want” is the key to delivering a trusted brand in this category.

Yet this changes again in the when it comes to trusting PC brands. For Dell, while scores are relatively high for “understanding what customers want”, being “different from the competition” was even more important.

And what of environmental issues? Trusted brand winners Ford and British Gas should take note that “being serious about the environment” registered as a positive driver of trust for both brands. Yet care for the environment did not carry quite so much weight for trusting BA, perhaps an indication that people are not yet willing to change their holiday plans.

Our understanding of how much trust influences consumers and how we can measure it is getting more sophisticated, and the data outlined in this study is a step closer towards examining this relationship. Through cross-referencing the performance of a brand against the importance of a set of trust drivers, marketers can use this data to concentrate effort where it will be most effective.

Victoria Scott is publisher of Reader’s Digest UK

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