Insights

The power of a trusted brand

February 26, 2018

With consumers increasingly suspicious of companies, politics and media, there is a growing need for reliable brands. Marketers who build their customer experience strategy around building trust will do well in 2018.

Trust is a valuable asset for every brand. Especially at a time of growing uncertainty and distrust worldwide. Consumers are increasingly concerned about abusive social values, failing political leadership, globalisation, growing inequality, immigration and rapid technological advances. The result is that the need for reliable brands is growing by the day.

All this offers opportunities for brands and marketers who know how to win the trust of the consumer. This can be done by connecting your brand, in ways that are credible, to issues that are in line with the personal values, needs and motives of your consumers. That’s not easy. The consumer has high expectations regarding trustworthiness, and expects to hear appealing arguments that convince rationally as well as emotionally.

Rational arguments

A strong brand stimulates both the left (rational) and right (emotional) hemispheres of the brain. Rational arguments answer the question of whether a company can fulfil its functional promise – the basis of trust between people and brand. How big is the company and how many other people bought exactly the same car or sneakers this year?

Alongside this, the need for, and importance of, emotional persuasion is growing. We are in a post-truth era; a period in which emotion often beats facts and rationality. Brands that are built around rational trust therefore need to focus more and more on creating emotional trust. Increasingly, people ask themselves whether a brand is ‘good’ – whether, as well as its functional promise, it cares about more than its self-interest. Brands that also want to convince consumers emotionally, focus on authenticity, radical transparency, intimacy, tradition and meaningful marketing.

Volkswagen provides a powerful example. After ‘Dieselgate’, the company dropped the slogan “Das Auto” as being too self-confident. But with a campaign that emphasises the rich heritage of the brand (“Then. Now. Always.”), it firmly re-established the bond of trust with the consumer. The brand further underlined its continued commitment to innovative, sustainable technology by investing billions of dollars in a charging network for electric cars in the US.

Powerful brands

Volkswagen is also making a clever play on our need for decisive brands. Now that every self-conscious brand has scribbled ‘why?’ on a piece of paper, it’s time to translate warm words into meaningful action. Brands have to take a near-political stance to stand out and persuade large groups of people to embrace it. This requires courage and involvement. The new generation of consumers has a word for this: ‘woke’. In other words, is the brand in tune with the issues that are politically and socially relevant to me?

Following President Trump’s controversial Muslim ban, Starbucks promised to recruit 10,000 new staff from among refugees ‘who have escaped war, persecution and discrimination’. Clearly, however, there are risks involved. Pepsi, for example, was roundly condemned for toe-curling ‘faking wokeness’ when it released an ad featuring model Kendall Jenner that played on the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a world in which consumers screen every marketing message for inauthenticity, brands are constantly under a magnifying glass. Transparency is one means to remove this mistrust. Transparent brands communicate openly and honestly about their ambitions and freely admit mistakes.

Transparency and trust

After lying for years about its ‘healthy’ menu, McDonald’s launched the ‘radically transparent campaign’ “Our Food. Your Questions”. Millions of website visitors viewed honest answers to questions about the ingredients used. And the guarantee that McDonald’s would, from then on, only use free-range eggs, real butter and chicken that is free of antibiotics.

Transparency also means being honest about your relationship with your customers. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation comes into force in May 2018. This covers the collection and processing of personal data, and, for marketers who understand the value of the consumer trust they have won, this new law offers an important opportunity: the chance to place the interests and needs of the customer even more emphatically at the centre of the organisation. After all, the digital economy asks for a lot of confidence from the consumer. Too often in recent years, dubious use of data has undermined that confidence. It’s the responsibility of brands themselves to restore it.

Note: this blog is part of a Valtech whitepaper called "In the eyes of the customer: 5 concrete tools to win consumer attention at the decisive moment." Download the whitepaper here.