Trust is one of the most common emotions tapped by marketers to sell products and services. Whether a bank is telling consumers they can trust their money with the institution or an e-commerce website is telling consumers they can trust that their financial transactions will be safe when they make a purchase through the site, trust is a strong emotional benefit that drives sales. However, with the emotion of trust comes heavy consumer expectations and requires strict adherence to consistency from the brand. Let's take a closer look.
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Building a brand based on emotions like security and trust creates positive perceptions in consumers' minds. However, consumers are unforgiving when those promises of security and trust are broken. There is no room for inconsistency when you base your brand messages and experiences on trust. In other words, don't let your customers down or they'll quickly turn away from your brand in search of another that can fulfill their emotional needs of trust.
However, any brand can claim to be trustworthy. In that sense, trust can be considered a soft differentiator. Without quantifiable or tangible proof that a brand is trustworthy, the message of trust can fall on deaf ears. Every bank claims to be trustworthy, but after the financial crisis a few years ago, consumer perceptions of banks changed significantly. Today, fewer customers believe banks' claims of being trustworthy.
In "The Nature of Trust in Brands: A Psychosocial Model," Richard Elliott, University of Bath, Bath, UK, and Natalia Yannopoulou, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, explain that trust is most important in high risk brand purchases and less important in purchases that are perceived as low risk. However, it's important to take that statement a step further. The perceived value of trust can be inflated with creative brand messages and experiences.
It might seem like trust isn't very important to a consumer purchasing a pair of sneakers, but ask a Nike customer if trust affected their purchase decision, and you're likely to find out that loyal Nike customers trust Nike to deliver great athletic apparel. That trust leads them to choose Nike over any other brand again and again. Bottom-line, they trust that the Nike brand will deliver on its brand promise and meet their expectations in every interaction. It's not surprising that Nike has been named one of the 10 most trusted brands. Trust matters to brand building.
Using Market Research to Effectively Leverage Trust
The question is how can your brand not just say it's trustworthy but actually make people believe that they can feel a sense of trust towards your brand. Market research can help you identify specific ways to communicate and prove that your brand is trustworthy in ways that matter to consumers and are believable to them.
Most brands need to give consumers a reason to trust them. Trust must be earned through consistent brand experiences. Therefore, market research should begin with asking consumers what they expect from the brand. The company must work to meet those expectations or the brand will never be able to earn consumers' trust.
Next, consumers should be asked about experiences that have caused them to gain or lose trust in competitor brands. Fill gaps and seize opportunities based on these survey results. In other words, find out what consumers want and then deliver it. The process doesn't have to be overly complicated.
The trick for marketers is conducting ongoing market research to ensure that marketing campaigns, brand extensions, and so on consistently meet consumers' expectations for the brand. If not, those campaigns and extensions could damage brand trust, and it's hard to win back that trust once it's lost. Just ask Facebook.
Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship brand, and just like relationships in life -- if there is no trust or trust is lost, then there is no relationship. Use traditional market research as well as social media reputation monitoring to ensure your brand earns and keeps the trust of consumers.