Maintaining trust in a sceptical world: The power of brand trust

Dan Ratner

Dan Ratner is managing director of branding and communications agency, uberbrand. He has more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, communications and branding and is passionate about branding as an enabler to fulfil organisational objectives. Working closely with uberbrand’s clients Dan works to understanding the current customer perception in the context of business goals and aspirations. Dan works with well-known Australian brands across a variety of sectors including financial services, travel and education.

The faith people have in brands creates opportunity for those brands to become trusted advisors. In turn, this builds success by increasing the brand’s profile, letting it broaden its product offering and driving stronger customer loyalty.

There’s no greater example of this than the content trend we’re witnessing today. Brands no longer just represent a product or a service; they have become key sources of information. And it’s trust that’s underwriting this loyalty.

Trusted brands are becoming legitimate sources of reliable content, and quality information and content is no longer the real of journalistic publishing businesses. It’s across a wide array of industries too - department stores, car sharing services, jobs websites, real estate businesses and social media platforms are all becoming legitimate and trusted sources of opinion and editorial content.

As a consequence, brands have evolved from product sellers to advice and information providers. For example, Domain no longer simply lists real estate but also offers property and investment advice. Similarly, Seek doesn’t just list job ads, it augments this with career and resume information. Even supermarkets have joined the content marketing movement: Coles has its own food magazine, sharing cooking tips as well as recipes and fresh produce advice.

Brands that have secured this magnitude of trust are being allowed to branch out and extend into new, seemingly-unrelated areas. For example, supermarkets can sell car insurance or mortgages, while airlines such as Qantas can sell health insurance and Seek can sell education. These different business ventures are successful because people have trust and now faith in these brands.

But with this authenticity comes a new set of credibility challenges for brands. The responsibility of content platforms is to provide filters that ensure content quality and credibility. Brands that don’t address these concerns could be at risk of losing their relevance to customers.

Brands can no longer remain oblivious. YouTube has already experienced this with complaints from its advertising partners about the association of pre-rolled advertising alongside inappropriate video content.

Facebook also continues to address its responsibility for content legitimacy, self-governing content to ensure quality, appropriateness, and credibility. In May 2017, it announced another 3500 editors would be hired to monitor content, taking Facebook’s editorial team to 8000.

At the same time as Facebook increases its editorial capability, traditional media companies like Fairfax have announced deep cuts to their journalists. Channel Ten has gone into administration, and Foxtel is attempting to rebrand itself as a Netflix competitor to ensure a place in the new video on-demand world.  

But however the media landscape changes, quality and relevant content and opinion remains valuable. The traditional ‘rivers of gold’ haven’t dried up; they’re just being delivered in different places and by different brands.

This fragmentation is creating opportunity for a land grab for large, category owning brands to establish leadership in their space. We’re seeing eBay, Amazon and even Taste.com.au establishing high levels of credibility with their audiences. But it’s what they do with this credibility that will determine their long-term success.

Consumer media consumption habits continue to shift and change in context of generational wants and needs. The contemporary consumer is fickle and fragmented, their attention span is compressing and, trust, while a given, is only good until it’s broken.

Marketers need to focus on customer satisfaction, but trust is a foundation of a customer’s relationship with a brand. Without it, the brand is de-legitimised; the audience is less likely to interact with content and in turn, will invest their time in competing products or services.

Brands should not look at marketing solely as the ability to sell things, but as the conduit for building relationships. For reasons both emotional and practical, brands have to build a real connection, listen and take on board what is heard, prioritise the relationship itself, and deliver on the promises they make.

It’s become clear consumers, especially millennials, are more likely to have a deep emotional connection to a brand if the company has passion and a cause. This can often be even more important than great products and services. This is where trust is built.

However, recent research shows there is a gap between what businesses believe trust means and what it means for consumers. So it’s important for businesses to communicate effectively with their audiences, whether through news articles, events, blogs, social media platforms or other vehicles.

Brand trust and interaction weigh heavily in customer decisions. The reason is simple: Actions speak louder than words. Brands that take on customer feedback are better positioned to build trust. It’s what a business chooses to do with customer feedback that really sets them apart.

The communication techniques used by brands to build trust today have to be more innovative to cater for a modern audience, which is more sceptical about branding messages. Delivering on brand promises has always been crucial but, in today’s digital culture fuelled by social media, failing to deliver can be a huge blow to a brand’s image.

Tags: customer engagement, marketing strategy, brand strategy, consumer trust

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