Consumers don’t trust brands anymore.

Brand trust is one of the most important yet intangible assets that any business has but every year brands are seeing themselves lose just a little bit more. This could be caused by a big scandal, a lack of care for customers or not following through on brand promises.

However trust is lost, the results are still the same:

  • A poor brand image
  • Stunted business growth
  • Ineffective marketing campaigns

People don’t buy from brands they don’t trust. It’s as simple as that.

Almost 70% of consumers don’t trust advertising and 42% distrust brands

Why don’t we trust brands anymore?

Brands have been behaving badly for years and getting away with it. So what’s the difference now?

We all have access to a database of information updated in real time. Whether Sally down the road got ripped off when she brought her new washing machine or your colleague shared an article on Facebook about Dyson leaving the UK to move their headquarters to Singapore, it all has the same effect.

It’s empowered us all to make our own decisions.

Taking all of the information we have available to us and making our own mind up. Yes, advertising and marketing still work and they have a big influence on our buying decisions, but we hold strong beliefs and ethics have become an even bigger part of our decision making process on who to buy from.

As soon as a brand does something that goes against its own marketing message, doesn’t live up to its brand promises or behaves in a way that doesn’t sit well with us – the damage is done and trust is broken.

With all this information it’s pretty easy to pick up on BS. For years businesses have been faking purposes and backing causes that don’t really fit with their brand. Connectivity and technology has exposed them as the PR campaigns they really are.

Building a relationship

Trust can be built in brands the same way it is built in a relationship.


The sad thing is that gaining trust isn’t actually that difficult. It just takes time, something that a lot of brands aren’t willing to commit.

  1. Know yourself & be real: the cliche “you can’t love someone until you love yourself” applies to business too. Until a brand knows who it is and what it stands for it doesn’t stand a chance of people loving it too. We’ve all been through relationships where we thought we were getting to know someone and it turns out it was all a show and they’re actually a bit of a waste of space – well brands have been doing that for years, overpromising and under delivering.
  2. Ensure your actions match your words: this is where most brands are falling down and losing trust, they say one thing and do another. We all know that’s going to end in heartbreak.
  3. Take time: you don’t ask for marriage on a first date but a lot of brands do this in their marketing. Brands don’t invest enough time in building a relationship with their audience. How can you trust someone when you know their intentions are purely to make some money from you?
  4. Open communication: organisations are still holding onto the old days where you could push out marketing messages and people either bought or didn’t buy. In 2019, everyone has a voice and each of us has a platform to share our opinion, whether that’s good or bad. Brands need to be open in the way they communicate and be more willing to take feedback from their audience.

Is it too late to repair damage to brand trust?

Yes, for some brands it’s too late. Just like in relationships, sometimes you can’t rebuild that trust. Perhaps they should have behaved properly in the first place?


But there is still hope to build trust in other brands by starting to look at the way they do business.

  1. Become value driven: rather than inventing brand stories, businesses should be looking at the values of their business. Brands who are driven by their values use them to make decisions. Does this fit with our values? No. Don’t do it. Instead of inventing brand stories find out what’s important to customers and employees and use those to develop brand values that the brand can live by.
  2. Follow through on promises: nothing breeds more distrust than saying something and doing the opposite. Trust is built by consistently delivering on promises.
  3. Be more transparent: brands need to let people see inside the business, they shouldn’t feed them press releases and filtered versions of what’s going on. Consumers love getting to know the brands they buy from – sharing posts from employees or behind the scenes photos make a brand more human.

Without trust there is no business

The brands who will succeed in years to come despite shifts in demographics, markets and other outside influences will be those who build a healthy relationship with their customers. And the key to a healthy relationship? Building their trust and keeping it.


Mitchel runs ethical marketing agency Reward which works with brands doing good, he's passionate about social mobility, the environment and ethical business.

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