You can feel it in your gut, but can’t always explain it. It’s hard to gain and easy to lose. And without it, your brand can’t generate customer satisfaction or loyalty.
We’re talking about trust.
While customer satisfaction and loyalty get more buzz, trust is the foundation of customers’ relationship with your brand. Without it, consumers aren’t likely to interact with your content or make a purchase. According to BrandSpark International, a consumer research firm, seven in 10 Americans surveyed in 2015 placed “very high importance” on established trust in a brand when purchasing a new product.
However, trust is difficult to develop and sustain. Customers use many factors to assess whether a brand is trustworthy, from the aesthetics of a brand’s website to their interactions with the customer service department. Just one experience can make or break a customer’s trust.
While there’s no single formula for creating confidence, some of the best-trusted brands have used these four brand management strategies.
Strategy #1: Give customers a consistent experience
Consistency is key to creating trust, research conducted by McKinsey & Company suggests. McKinsey surveyed 27,000 American consumers across 14 industries and found that consumers trusted banks that scored high in delivering consistent customer experiences 30% more often than they trusted banks that scored poorly in consistency.
Brands can also provide consistency through marketing. Southwest Airlines, for example, has consistently marketed itself as a low-cost, no-frills airline. By continuously marketing the brand this way and delivering on that promise over the years, they earned their customers’ trust.
Consistent customer experiences and marketing messages teach consumers what they can expect from a brand. When brands fulfill their promises, they create trust.
Strategy #2: Create an emotional connection
Some of the most trusted brands use emotion to connect with customers. The Values Institute’s “Most Trustworthy Brands 2014” research found that emotional connection is an increasingly important part of brand trust. Brands that scored the highest in establishing emotional connections with customers also had high customer loyalty, which correlates highly with customer satisfaction and trust.
For example, Costco, identified as one of most trusted brands in The Values Institute’s 2014 survey, created an emotional connection with customers by showing compassion for its employees. Costco known as a brand that cares about people, largely because it pays employees a living wage and its CEO is an outspoken advocate for raising the national minimum wage.
Brands can also emphasize emotions in marketing and advertising to create trust. Emotions were at the center of Evian’s “Live Young” campaign, which involved installing a pink playground to cheer up London commuters. The campaign focused on feelings of youthfulness and joy, rather than water.
While emotional connection can’t replace quality products and excellent service, brands that establish emotional bonds with customers may be able to enhance trust.
Strategy #3: Use word-of-mouth to build trust
Word-of-mouth and third-party endorsements influence customers’ trust in a brand. In a Nielsen study, 84% of respondents said they relied on “recommendations from someone I know” to determine whether advertising and brand messages were trustworthy. Customers may be more likely to trust your brand if they know their peers do, too.
Brands can take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing by:
- Creating content that customers are excited to share with their social networks (the Nielsen study found that humorous ads resonate the most)
- Providing customized sharing icons to make it easy for customers to tell their social networks about your brand
- Highlighting positive customer testimonials on social media sites
- Featuring social media endorsements in advertising campaigns, as Hellman’s did in their “Out of This World Burger” ad
Marketing strategies that focus on peer endorsements can help brands bolster trust.
Strategy #4: Make your content trustworthy
Content is one of the main sources customers use to evaluate whether they trust a brand. So what kind of content helps brands develop trust?
A 2012 study called “The Trust Factor,” conducted by Latitude and About.com, suggests that customers want brands to provide information that’s helpful, but not overtly promotional. Of 1,500 Americans surveyed, 71% said they trusted brands that provided useful information without trying to sell them something. Consumers named accuracy, relevance, expertise and fairness as the top “cues” they looked for to determine whether a brand was trustworthy.
For marketers, this means providing quality content is a must for building a trustworthy brand. Consider whether your brand’s content helps customers solve a problem, or simply promotes your own products and services.
Think about the long-term
Brand trust doesn’t happen overnight. Many of the most trusted brands, like Johnson & Johnson and Ford, have had more than 100 years to establish trust among customers. However, both new and established brands can benefit from understanding what creates customer trust and using strategies to promote trust in their marketing campaigns.