Trust is a big deal. When people gain our trust or break our trust, it matters. It’s also a big word, packing a ton of weight. We say we trust people, or that someone has broken our trust. But what does that mean? What did they do? And, does trust look and feel the same between consumers and brands, as it does between two individuals? Do the pillars of trust transcend relationship type and dimension?
According to Morning Consult’s 2021 Most Trusted Brands™ report, the majority of Americans say they do not have much (29%) or any (25%) trust that corporate America will do what is right. Yet about three-quarters (74%) say they trust individual brands to deliver consistently on what they promise, and more than half say that a brand has to do something wrong before they lose trust in them.
And just two weeks ago, Insider Intelligence and eMarketer came out with the Digital Trust Benchmark Report 2021, which analyzes the data from their fifth annual “US Digital Trust Survey” to evaluate how US social media users feel about nine major social media platforms—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube—and reveal the extent to which trust affects usage and attitudes toward advertising. Any guesses on how the nine platforms ranked? (I’ll reveal at the very end…)
Trust is emerging as a key lever in brand loyalty, but why? How did we get here? And, what can brands do to get it right?
Brené Brown, a renowned vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy researcher, breaks down the complexities of trust: She borrows a definition from leadership and well-being coach Charles Feltman who says that “trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.” Trust isn’t built in grand gestures, Brown says, but in the small moments that people treat what is important to you with care.
To talk about trust, Brown uses the acronym BRAVING which stands for: boundaries, reliability, accountability, the vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity. Understanding that these are components of trust and how they work can help us really understand how we do or don’t trust others, or ourselves. She says she uses this acronym “because when we trust, we are braving connection with someone.”
And, finally, one from eMarketer x Insider Intelligence:
I could not help but notice acute similarities in these “trust building blocks” from Brené, Morning Consult, and eMarketer:
Using Brené’s framework, Vault, Integrity, and Reliability seem to be top trust builders (or… trust killers) for consumers…for people. Vault can easily translate to protection of a consumer’s privacy and data; Integrity with quality of product or service; and Reliability in that the product or service does what it says it will do.
And, it’s likely that many of us have experienced these steps or missteps in our own relationships — with individuals and with brands. Data breaches, bad experiences, unreliability and numerous social missteps and oversights can significantly damage trust among global consumers, according to Morning Consult. And, as a fun and simple exercise, we can easily invert these missteps and develop some critical trust builders for consumers: data protection, excellent experiences, reliability and social awareness.
Vault, or protection of personal data, seemed to rise to the top across most of these recent surveys and reports on digital and brand trust. And, according to a new Pew Research Institute survey, 7 in 10 Americans feel their personal data is less secure than 5 years ago.
For Brené, unearthing “Vault” as a key tenant of trust “shook her to her core”. In an episode of Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast, she breaks down Vault:
“We cannot trust someone if they share our personal information with others without our permission. It needs to be as though that information is in a vault that’s only accessible to the folks we purposely told. By the same token, we need to hold the secrets, stories, and information of other people in confidence so they can trust us.”
Brown boils the vault down to: “You respect my story [and] you respect other people’s story.”
As seen in the above visualization from Morning Consult, functional and experiential matters have led to sizable drops in usage and the greatest dents in trust, missteps related to social issues would be nearly as damaging to consumers’ trust in the offending brand. In other words, “though these missteps might not lead to immediate abandonment by consumers or perceivable impacts on the bottom line, they will almost certainly harm a brand’s reputation – which, if either compounded by other oversights or missteps or left unremedied, may very well translate to more permanent and longer-term financial damage.”
I can say, on a human level, the same drivers apply for ALL relationships. The biggest, for me, is bad experience + decline in quality + unreliability (or, inconsistency).
So, what’s the winning trust formula? According to Morning Consult, it looks a little like the below.
High Value, High Trust.
Trust is now more than ever an imperative for brand and business growth… and, dare I say, individuals. One can follow the latest trends in mobile or social, be a “content machine”, or procure the gold standard of MarTech tools or softwares, but if you’re not considering the basic — almost primal — needs for building trust among your people, your community, you can say goodbye to long-term growth and sustainability.
Brands that can deliver on different functional and emotional needs of their audiences to build a reputation of not only working well, but also being trustworthy, will be critical today and in the future.
P.S. As promised, in the 2021 Digital Trust Benchmark Report, the top trusted platforms were: LinkedIn, Reddit, and Pinterest. Facebook was indeed last.
|Digital Trust Benchmark Report 2021: https://www.emarketer.com/content/digital-trust-benchmark-report-2021|
|Building Blocks of Consumer Trust: https://www.marketingcharts.com/brand-related/brand-loyalty-111627|
|Most Trusted Brands, Morning Consult: https://mtb.morningconsult.com/most-trusted-brands-2021/intro/|
|Pew on Trust: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/22/key-findings-about-americans-declining-trust-in-government-and-each-other/|
|Brené’s BRAVING: https://www.limapea.co/trust/|