In Brands We Trust


Every brand strives to be trusted, right? This statement is often cited as a core tenant of the relationship between a person and a brand. Trust is a core element of many brand tracking and health studies. ‘A brand I trust,’ at its most basic level, means that a person believes that a brand will deliver on its promises, that it is what it says it is.

But, isn’t trust much more complicated and nuanced than this?

We’ve been working on a study with Trinity Mirror looking at modern parenting (watch this space for release details!) and as part of this study, we looked at brands that parents trust. When we started to explore this theme, we realised that trust clearly means very different things to different people at different times across different categories. This clearly has large implications for brands and categories particularly if our criteria for trust is more stringent and difficult to achieve in one category than in another. For example, we saw evidence that the criteria used to evaluate trust for a financial services brand may be different than trust in a cosmetics brand which, in turn, may be different than trust in a baby food brand. Thus, the cost of losing trust in these brands is often very different.

We believe that at a very minimum we should be helping our clients to understand what trust means for them and the elements that should be part of their specific building blocks of trust. We looked to our online community ‘YourVoice’ to understand what’s important in building trust for different categories and brands.  We’ve asked 300 people to tell us about the brands they trust and what behaviours brands need to exhibit for them to be trusted.


We’re learning a lot as we analyse all of our participants’ thoughts and ideas and what we’ve found is fascinating. We’re learning about the nature of trust and what it means at the most basic level, to be trusted:

“…transparency and reliability are both important in building trust in brands. I also trust brands that are Scottish and British and that give their customers rewards and help in the community. Transparency in telling the customer where exactly the product comes from e.g. the name of the farm.”

Female, aged 65+

We’re exploring the importance of both word of mouth, but also of online reviews in building trust and how this changes depending on what the category is:

“Sometimes, I will look on review sites for product reviews. I would distrust a brand if it has regular negative feedback. I am a parent and what would make me trust a brand for my son is not just popularity but making sure it is safe, reliable and hardy.”

Female, aged 35-44

We’re also learning about the importance of brand listening to build trust and of how brands can easily lend trust to one another (or take it away). We’ve explored the concept that trust is not one-dimensional and emotional connections to brands based on trust shouldn’t necessarily be measured in the same way for all brands – trust in one brand doesn’t always equate to the same magnitude as trust in another brand.

As an industry that widely accepts that brand relationships are important and that trust is a cornerstone of these relationships, we should pay more attention to how we measure and understand the complex social construction of trust.


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