Brands and trust: Bridge the gap or die

Our society has always been grounded in a framework of trust. Whether we are grabbing our morning coffee, buying our weekly groceries, or visiting our favorite restaurants, we trust that our experiences will be positive and that our time and money are worth the return.

On the flip side, we’ve had our fill of fake news, shady deals and hidden agendas. We don’t trust our banks. We don’t trust our media. And we don’t trust our government. So, who do we trust?

The state of trust in corporate Australia

It’s been a year of less than positive revelations about our largest and most valued institutions. Despite this, the Australian population is becoming more trusting in business (seven-point increase year-on-year). The 2019 Corporate Reputation Index gives us insight into the state of Australia’s belief in business. The rankings at the top of the index, produced by the Reputation Institute, are seeing greater leaps in overall reputation: since 2018, we’ve seen the number of strong and very strong rankings grow. However, those languishing down the lower end of the index are experiencing significant decreases in their reputations. In fact, the number of organizations with weak reputations increased by 250 percent.

Just how important is trust to the success of organizations, and how can those that have lost it rebuild it for the future?

The importance of trust

Trust is intrinsically linked to the success of a business. An increase in trust leads to an increase in brand value, as well as greater ability to place a premium on products and services. (Research conducted by Kantar: “Building Trust in a Connected World.”)

Executives experiencing waning trust in their business will no doubt be looking for solutions to attract customers and keep them coming back. It’s not enough to promise you’ll do better. While flash sales, ad campaigns and unique offers may get immediate results, they are band-aid solutions to a bigger problem and can sometimes do more harm than good.

How can you bridge the trust gap?

It can be a long road, but one worth traveling. There are many ways to rebuild trust. For those looking to start the journey, here are four of the first—and perhaps most important—steps to take toward bridging the gap.

  1. Define what you stand for
    A defined brand strategy that acts as your North Star is key to decision-making. After a crisis, you may need to redefine why you do what you do, and how you do it. The result should be consistency across all areas of your business, giving your customers what they need to rebuild belief and confidence in your brand.
  2. Build trust from the inside out
    You know that old adage about your greatest asset being your people? It’s true. By creating a clear internal understanding of and dialogue around the culture of your business you will help your employees live and breathe it. Then you can take them along on your reputation rebuild journey and engage them in your reconnection with customers. This creates a strong foundation for consumer trust from the inside out.
  3. First listen, then act
    Consumers can be your biggest advocates, but they’re tired of trying to be heard. So it’s time to listen. The most powerful act of communication to truly build trust is to listen. But don’t just tell people that you are listening (they’ll see through that in a second), show them. Prove it through your actions over a sustained period of time.
  4. Less telling, more doing
    Consumers are sick of advertising telling them what is going to be different. Sure, outline your plans, but show people what you are doing to make a difference. Take action to make change.

Start the journey

It can take years to build trust in a brand, but just moments to destroy it. If a crisis hits, or your business reputation is suffering through other circumstances, it’s important to have the practices and processes in place to rebuild. This will put less pressure on your business to take short-term measures that could negatively impact your brand, your culture and your bottom line.

Rebuild your reputation gradually through clarity of purpose, engagement and action, and create an experience worth your customers’ money and time. No more fake news, no more shady deals, no more hidden agendas. Show Australians why they should believe in you again—and before long they will.

Ella Campbell is Landor’s new business and marketing manager based in Sydney, Australia.

This article was first published