Erosion of Brand Trust in the Marketing Industry

Consumers want to believe that brands, like an old friend, have their best interests at heart. Despite consumers’ desire to feel protected and trust the intentions of a brands actions, they frequently are let down instead. 

Consumers have become more skeptical of brand promises since technology access has made it easy to detect a brand’s lies via social media. It takes time to develop a trusting consumer relationship by nurturing it through the customer journey, but it can take only seconds to kill that relationship and even more time to mend. 

Facebook, Amazon, and Uber are great examples of brands that have disappointed their consumers in the past few years and need to work harder to regain consumers’ trust. They are few of the many brands that have lead to a nationwide decrease in consumer trust.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, consumer trust has dropped 10% from 58% to 48% in the last year and nearly half of consumers don’t trust businesses to “do what is right.” Consumers not only lack faith in their political leaders, but 63% doubt the credibility of business leaders like CEOs. 

In a world where consumer choices drive business and the market is saturated with countless options, building a strong consumer relationship based on trust may be the only differentiator against competition. 

Build Trust or Risk Brand Erosion…

How Can Brands Build Trust?

  • Authenticity

  • Competency

  • Integrity

Authenticity

An authentic brand is transparent about their services. What they promise, they consistently deliver and meet consumer expectations. An authentic brand’s advertising reflects their brand mission and values. Even when disaster hits the fan, they are honest about how they are working to fix problems. 

In the past couple of years, Facebook got in over it’s head by attempting to provide more than it’s initial promise - “bringing the world closer together” by connecting people. Facebook’s privacy breach lost their consumers' faith in the brand and the alterations of the Facebook News Feed to focus more on news, entertainment media, and ads lead them away from their initial purpose to connect. Since, they have restructured to focus on their initial mission and hired a larger staff to ensure the trustworthiness of information shared on the site. 

 
 

Competency

Consumers do not need to blindly believe advertisements or company promises because they can easily look up reviews of other consumers’ experience and comments. The ability for companies to provide proof of their product or service’s quality gives them a distinct advantage. 

Companies like Amazon have to be hyper-vigilant about fraud because they have built an ecosystem of resellers who may have less-than reputable intentions. Fake reviews, cheap items, and counterfeited products lead consumers to blame the platform. On the podcast “Reply All,” hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman discovered that sellers hire people to place their items in the “shopping cart” to boost the product’s visibility. People are also hired to purchase the product for “reviewing” to increase their product ranking. The people hired typically write an overall positive review with one minor negative note and then return the product for profit without actually using it. 

Though Amazon has managed to change the algorithm from time to time to avoid falsehoods, nefarious actors are still slipping through the cracks and taking advantage of customers. Amazon acknowledges that fake reviews are a problem, but they neglect to acknowledge the enormity of the situation. While Amazon estimates 1% of reviews are false, analysts have found over half of some products’ reviews say otherwise. The Edelman study found that “misusing data, and poor trust coming from that, can decrease retention by about 18% within a year, can make customers spend less, at around 15% in one year, and also makes customers more likely to dissuade others using that organization.” Slowly consumers will lose faith and resort to other options for their shopping needs.

Integrity

Integrity is staying true to the stated promises and brand standards when venturing into new opportunities or when things go wrong. A third of the people surveyed by Edelman prefer when a company works to improve their community. Consumers see through brands that artificially align themselves with causes solely for profit.  Brands can appear “preachy” if they do not align the cause with the corporate mission

Uber lacked integrity when hackers stole millions of user’s data and Uber paid the hackers off to bury the news of the breach. Uber’s reputation has not recovered since this news as well as reports about poor leadership.

Though brands like Facebook, Amazon, and Uber have betrayed their consumers’ trust, they are making efforts to correct their missteps. Marketers should avoid being disconnected from the voices that matter and intently listen to the insights from employees, consumers, and stakeholders. Investing in building trusting consumer relationships leads to more opportunities for profitable growth in the long run.