The trust equation

In a post truth world, trust is being re-thought and given a new cultural relevance

Since the Oxford Dictionary announced ‘post-truth’ as their word of the year for 2016, the word has permeated our conversations and become a default description of the world we live in. In a post-truth world with a widespread lack of trust, we now default to disbelief. There’s only 18% confidence in ‘big business’ (PSFK, 2016) however trust is more important than ever, as the 2nd most important reason for choosing a retailer, after price (PWC, 2017).
At Household, trust is one of the key forces we see impacting and changing people’s lives, now and in the future. It was great to hear from a panel of thought leaders on the topic at Stir’s recent event on ‘Building Consumer Trust’. The central discussion topic was how brands rebuild trust after a scandal or shortfall.

In response to TFL’s decision last week, to revoke Uber’s licence to operate in London, a petition to ‘Save Your Uber’ has reached 823,239 signatures. However with a reported 3.5 million users in the city opinion is obviously split on the matter. With their recent flurry of flight cancellations affecting a massive 400,000 passengers, Ryanair is another brand battling to rebuild customer confidence in the brand. However if people can bag a £10 flight to Mallorca, they know what they’re getting into and many are still willing to take the risk.
The ability to recover from a downfall in customer trust correlates to the initial level of trust placed in a brand; the higher the customers’ expectations, the further the brand has to fall. By understanding their customers’ needs, brands can determine an approach to trust that suits them best. Should they tap into emotional decision-making drivers or simply focus on function, with a cheap and convenient offer?
As trust in businesses continues to plummet, the list of public scandals is ever growing. Start up Bodega caused uproar in New York due to the implied threat to local corner-shops, while airline giant United Airlines’ stock value dropped $770million in just 48 hours after a passenger was forcefully removed from a flight. .

But despite all this, many brands are growing their businesses from the very principle of trust. With “brand trust directly linked to market share” (Mettle Consulting, 2017) JD.com is one business reaping the benefits. The ‘Chinese Amazon’ that started as a market stall using simple, counter-cultural principles has built a level of trust in a market filled with counterfeits and zero-return policies. Using these same policies the business is now worth over $45bn (Forbes, 2017) and has recently established deals with both Farfetch and Walmart.
The desire for trusted brands certainly isn’t going away, but trust is being re-thought and given a new cultural relevance. We have abandoned the world of facts and trust is increasingly nurtured in the emotional connection people make with brands that feel both authentic and personally relevant.

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