18 Oct 2022

In research we trust

We live in a world of growing distrust. Public trust in government, politicians, police, bankers and the media is low and declining. Business leaders are seen as increasingly untrustworthy.

According to Ipsos, across 28 nations around the world about 59% of people rate doctors as trustworthy, but only 12% trust Politicians. One in four trust business leaders.

That’s bad for businesses because trust is essential to building a growing enterprise. With it, you can turn one-off buyers into repeat customers and brand ambassadors: 81% of consumers say trust is a deciding factor.

The trusted mark of quality

To understand why trust is important, we need to go back to the origins of modern-day branding.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the introduction of mass production in the Industrial Revolution made it quicker and cheaper to make products than ever before, but it often came at the expense of quality, health and lives.

To differentiate their goods from items of inferior quality, manufacturers branded their products. The brand became a mark of quality and confidence, helping them build a reputation as a company which could be trusted to meet expectations.

In 2008, as China went through its own industrial revolution, 22 companies were caught adulterating milk and infant formula with melamine to artificially boost protein levels and pass nutrition tests. 300,000 children were poisoned, and six babies died. Along with other scandals, it reinforced the Chinese love affair with western brands they could trust.

By the start of the twentieth century, brands such as Coca Cola, Cadburys, Mercedes, Chanel and LEGO had been founded. Their investment in trust, quality and the marketing to build their brands paid off with a stream of high margin earnings to this day.

But as legendary investor Warren Buffet said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Trust is earned through the consistent delivery of a quality product or service, and it can be lost in the blink of an eye.

Would I lie to you?

A 2019 survey by Edelman, found that four out of five people said that being able to trust a brand to do what is right was a major consideration for a purchase, but only one in three now trusted most of the brands they bought and used.

Even long-lived apparently reputable brands take risks and get it wrong, and this has eaten away at the trust we have in brands.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted that 11m of its cars were built with software that was designed to cheat emissions testing. Cars fitted with these ‘defeat devices’ emitted up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen dioxide when on the road, posing threats to public health and the environment.

VW has tried to move on but, at the last count, the cumulative cost of the scandal to it was more than 26 billion euros.

In 2017, Japan’s third largest steel maker – Kobe Steel – admitted to fabricating the strength and quality data of its steel. Its customer base includes Boeing, Toyota and General Motors, and it is through luck alone that the substandard steel hasn’t yet caused safety issues in the cars, planes and trains it was used to make. It later transpired that data cheating had been going on at Kobe Steel since the 1970s, and as a result the Japanese government-sanctioned seal of quality was stripped from some of Kobe’s products.

The falsifying of product and test data had more serious consequences in Grenfell. The ripples from the tragedy and public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the fire are ongoing. Previously admired building product brands have been put in the stocks and research shows that many specifiers will never again touch them with a bargepole. The commercial consequences are still unfolding.

Do your customers trust you?

Those are extreme examples, but to what extent do your customers trust your claims and promises, that your product or service will perform as expected? It’s their reputation on the line if they specify, commission or install it and it doesn’t go well.

Do your customers trust you will have the products they want when they need them, onsite as expected, or will they waste time and money waiting for it to be delivered?

We have come full circle, back to the birth of brands when consumers needed reassurance that they were buying quality and could trust the brand’s claims and promises. The difference is that in a world of growing distrust, a recognised brand is no longer enough to establish trust. Brands need to constantly prove it, and that means measuring, monitoring and managing them so they deliver for customers and perform for brand owners.

If you want help measuring and monitoring trust in your brand to better manage it, speak to us now.