Can market research bring back brand trust?

OCTOBER 24, 2011 – It’s difficult to continually create and deliver advertising content that can resonate with consumers, particularly when audiences are becoming more sensitive to insincere or contrived material. As Richard Madden writes for Marketing Week, many brands have the difficult task of rebuilding consumers’ trust in their companies and products.

Conducting market research to determine what people want and how they feel about particular tactics could help this endeavor.

“Trust is complicated. Trust is a response, not a stimulus,” he says. “And there’s a difference between functional trust (that ATM machines won’t short-change us) and affective trust (that an organization has our best interest at heart).”

Madden points to one gauge of the state of the consumer-brand relationship, the Edelman Trust Barometer, which found the U.K. general public’s trust in banks plummeted 30 percent between 2008 and 2011. In just one year, their trust of the media dropped 9 percent from its 2010 level.

He cites a book by Justin Basini, which explains that to undo the damage, brands will need to learn about who they’re dealing with. Also, remember to trust employees to be a positive representation of the company – through quality customer service. Handing over some of the power of reputation management to the audience, showing vulnerability, is the next step in restoring trust, Madden says. Creating a mission beyond turning a profit, and partnering with the consumer to achieve that goal, is the final stage in “tackling the trust deficit,” he notes.

“Basini’s book shows that advertising cannot rebuild trust; it takes behavior, aligned to belief. In other words, it’s time for less talk, more do,” Madden concludes.

On the topic of brands having a higher purpose than just selling a product, Nirmalya Kumar, writing for The Economic Times, says that companies now have to consider how their presence influences not only the people who buy their goods, but the broader environment. As a result, businesses have to start addressing sustainability issues and giving back to communities to show gratitude for their success.

“As brands have become ubiquitous and global, their impact over society is substantial. Brands now belong to more than just their consumers or shareholders,” he says.