Why Trust Matters More Than Ever

Morning Consult recently released their 2021 survey of the most trusted brands around the world. They surveyed over 330,000 consumers across 15 markets to provide a global view on why trust matters more than ever for today's brands and businesses, the current state of consumer trust across brands, categories, and how current events are changing the dynamics around trust.

In today's world, trust is something that a brand cannot live without. Ninety percent of global consumers say their usage of a brand would be damaged if they lost trust in it. And consumers are a lot more likely to seek out, pay more for, buy more of, recommend and even forgive a brand if they trust it. In fact, on average, a third of global consumers would switch to a competitor's product or service if a company they trusted did something to break their trust.

As the world begins to reopen, brands have a unique opportunity to identity the shifts that will stay for the long term and those that will fade away. Among all of the changes in the last year, one thing is certain: what consumers consider important to them is changing. Trust has a considerable impact on this. While 90% of global consumers said they would buy more form a trust, 82% said they are more willing to forgive them if they make a mistake or something goes wrong.

Of course, it takes more than trust alone for consumers to build a strong relationship with a brand. Value is also important. If delivered through relevance, meeting needs, quality and experience, value fulfills the functional side of the reputation equation. Delivering on the trust/value combination is a sure recipe for stronger, more loyal customer relationships.

Where Consumer Trust Stands Today

  • 47% of global consumers say they end to trust companies by default, while 37% say that companies have to earn their trust.
  • 50% of global consumers trust leaders of companies based in their country to do the right thing, however this rises to 62% for small business owners, drops to 41% for leaders of major international corporations, and just 33% for leaders of American companies.
  • 75% of global consumers trust restaurants, food/beverage companies, and household goods companies to act in the best interest of consumers, while only 50% trust social media and real estate companies to do so.
  • 21% trust brands more because of their responses to the pandemic, although in most markets, the majority of trust in brands was unaffected by corporate responses.

Global Views on Trust

  • Germans, Russians and French consumers are slightly more inclined to distrust the average company.
  • Ethical and responsible behavior is more likely to be a requirement to trusting a company for Asians and Latin Americans.
  • In western markets, trust is based more on reliability and quality.
  • Indian consumers are notably more trusting of most industries while South Koreans have much lower levels of trust in them.
  • Chinese consumers are less trusting of health care, hospitality and real estate companies.
  • Brazilians are notably more trusting of entertainment and social media companies
  • Mexicans tend to trust not only entertainment and social media, but also technology, financial services and real estate companies more than most other global consumers.
  • The French and Italians have lower levels of trust in financial service and social media companies.
  • Globally, Social Media companies saw the greatest net decline in trust in the past year.

Other Reasons That Break Trust

While trust and value are the top drivers, protecting customers' data and quality, social and emotional qualities like treating customers and employees well as well as honesty and transparency in business practices are also important.

  • 40% or more global adult stopped using a brand because of quality issues or poor customer service issues
  • 25% stopped because of privacy or social issues including data breaches, unethical behavior toward the environment or employees.
  • On the net, just over half believe the average company acts in the best interest of society, feel the average company stands for something other than profit or tends to hide important information in the fine print.

Corporate Responsibility

Though big brands and their leaders are not especially trusted to do what's right when it comes to sociopolitical issues, a good number of Americans hold them responsible for addressing these matters. Around the world, consumers consider corporate social responsibility just as important to their relationship with brands as more the more functional and service-related qualities. In fact,

  • 40% of U.S. adults say that they rarely, if ever, overlook a company acting irresponsibly or unethically - they'd instead stop buying from them.
  • 66% of U.S. adults say they pay attention to the ethics of companies they buy from
  • 60% of U.S. adults say they pay attention to the political matters relating to companies they buy from.
  • 61% of U.S. adults think companies should pay a role in influencing political, societal and/or cultural issues.

Surprisingly, potentially polarizing instance of corporate activism around important issues have rarely damaged relationships to of point of abandonment according to their study: just 10% say they will stop buying the brand because of it.

Conclusions

Trust is more important now than ever. While value remains a table stake for a strong reputation, trust gained through delivering on your brand promise and now underpinned by social responsibilities and emotional connections are imperative.

Accelerated by the events of the past year, loyalty dynamics are changing as the rise of e-commerce has democratized discovery, consumers experiment more, and switching is easier than ever. True brand loyalty will be forged by emotionally powered ties to increase relationships.

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