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Why brand trust matters more now than ever


What’s the cost of trust? That’s the question many brands are asking themselves as they work to build trust with both existing and new audiences.

But gaining trust is easier said than done. In a time where the internet can feel like a digital minefield, consumers are looking to brands to not only use their power to take a stand on social issues that matter, but to also preserve the authenticity of the information surrounding them. Smart brands are taking notice of a fundamental shift in belief-based consumerism: brand trust matters more now than ever before.

Welcome to the Trust Age

The internet, and social media more specifically, have made it easy to quickly gain access to information while simultaneously empowering people and brands to speak up and add their point of view to conversations.

Brands are increasingly being more vocal about their public stances and social responsibility. Brands like TOMS, that gives away a pair of shoes for every pair purchase, or REI, that closes its stores on Black Friday to encourage people to go outside, or Patagonia that most recently took a political stand by asserting that “the President stole your land” in response to regulation on National Parks. These types of moves being made by brands not only work to amplify a company’s mission and vision but also to build trust among their customer base that share similar values and have come to expect brands to use their power and visibility to support these causes.

But while brands work to solidify trust with their audience, because of the way our information ecosystem operates, their every move is being watched and evaluated under a microscope waiting for a public misstep. The hard truth is that no matter how much a brand works to build their values and business on a foundation of trust, no brand is immune to controversy.

In a recent study, consumers said they are more likely to do business with a brand that has a positive reputation over a negative one. This should comes as no surprise to brands as they are surely taking note of how their images weighs in their audience’s eyes. To build trust brands and corporations can no longer stay silent on social issues to keep their brand out of controversy’s way.

Hard to gain, easy to lose

When a brand is at the center of a controversy the trust that companies have spent years building can be eroded in a matter of hours. 30% of consumers say that they will lose trust in a brand when it is at the center of a reputation damaging event. Winning back that brand trust might not be as easy as brands think. Over 42% of customers say it will take 3 or more years to gain back their trust after a brand has lost it.

We’ve witness firsthand, via social media, how marketing campaigns have led to a public major outcry across social media platforms encouraging a boycott of a brand. Brands like Pepsi, and most recently Nike have experienced this.

However, the most damaging controversies take this a step further. It’s those that explode in the mainstream and the narratives surrounding the controversy go on to be manufactured, inauthentic, and further amplified. Narrative hijacking often works to undermine brands and turn their audiences against them.

In the case of Nike, when they launched their Just Do It campaign with San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, many voiced their disagreement with the brand. Narrative hijackers leveraged this sentiment to take it one step further: creating fake coupons from Nike for people of color with the intention of causing confusion and making the issue even more polarizing. This is a prime example of how disinformation is becoming an increasing problem for brands and how it poses an enormous threat to reputation and trust.

For brands, the challenge will always lie in maintaining trust. Given the landscape today, it takes more than making consumers promises and trying to buy their trust. Instead its taking the right proactive measures to defend and preserve it.

Securing your brand from the destruction of trust

Every major brand knows the importance and value of having a crisis communications strategy ready to be put in action for when a controversy arises.

But traditional crisis communications strategies are only intended to diffuse the negative attention after said event occurs. They can’t prevent the controversy from occurring altogether.

PR analytics and social media monitoring can provide sentiment analysis that can give you a 10,000 foot view of how your audience feels about your brand. However what they can’t do is provide you with the context as why this is occurring, or if the behavior is authentic or manufactured.

It’s up to brands to leverage solutions that will go deeper than surface level analytics on Facebook and Twitter. Many of the conversations that start boycotts, or push forward false narratives start in communities and social platforms that existing detection tools can’t monitor today.

Information integrity is an emerging problem for brands today. Just as social media and marketing tactics evolve, so do the means in which they can be leveraged to disrupt and undermine authentic narratives. Responsible brands need to take a new kind of stand, to evolve their reputation strategy to maintain brand trust.

To get more insights on where consumers stand on trust, reputation, and the threat of disinformation, download the 2019 Brand Disinformation Impact study. ****

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