6 sure signs of a truly trusted brand

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It’s the thing that every brand craves – to be an unquestioned part of its customers’ lives. But how do you know you’ve become a truly trusted brand? Here are six ways to evaluate whether your brand is winning over today’s highly aware and cynical consumers:

You’re believed: Obvious, right? Absolutely – but rare. Consumers continue to look sideways at most of the stuff that is marketed to them. By contrast, trusted brands are seen as genuine, sincere, “one of us”. As a result, they effectively act as an ally in someone’s life and the part they play is not questioned – or at least it hasn’t been until recently. According to Prof. Steven Van Belleghem, “top brands are no longer able to retain their status as market leaders for such long periods … consumers are prepared to commit to up to five brands as long as they believe the brand adds value to their lives or society in general … a certain brand paradox exists in the world today where people will wholeheartedly buy into specific brands, while putting less trust in brands in general at the same time.”

The half-life of brand trust is in decline overall. The brands that have consumers’ trust need to fight harder than ever to keep it.

You’re included: Trusted brands are supported as much for what they stand for as what they sell. Whilst I have consistently questioned the commercial conversion of Likes for brands, it is interesting to look at why people follow brands on Facebook in the first place: According to MediaPost, “Fans choose to Like brands in key consumer categories predominantly to fulfill emotional, expression and relationship desires … the single biggest reason (49%) brand Fans in our study report becoming a Fan is “to support the brand I like … Other key reasons for becoming a Fan of a brand include: “to share my personal good experiences” (31%); “to share my interests / lifestyle with others” (27%); and “seeing my friends are already a Fan or Liked” (20%)”

People trust brands that feel most like them. The “us=them” relationship adds to the perceptions of empathy, like-mindedness and shared beliefs and ideals.

You’re pursued: When you have customers beating down the door to know what you’re going to release next, as a brand like Jordan does, then you know your brand is absolutely trusted for its taste and currency. What you offer has become far more to people than something they buy. It has become something that they are proud to own.

People trust and seek out a perspective that excites them – aesthetic or philosophical.

You’re forgiven: With today’s long and complicated supply lines, brands are susceptible to scandals around contamination, lax standards or traceability. From fashion houses not looking after the welfare of workers to accusations of horse meat in food products, the days of getting away with it can largely be seen as over. Faced with a crisis of confidence, trusted brands retain the loyalty of consumers when they act swiftly, decisively and sincerely to address not just the reality but also the perception of the mistake. Back in 1990, when several bottles of Perrier were discovered to have traces of a carcinogenic, the company made a voluntary global recall. That response, and Perrier’s good name, reassured consumers that they could continue to rely on the water brand to do the right thing.

People are more inclined to trust brands that are disarmingly open.

You’re valued: My own theory is that price becomes a talking point for brands that aren’t fully trusted. If your brand is no longer accepted as delivering exceptional value, then consumers will in time relegate it to commodity status and value it accordingly. The sign that you are truly trusted in my view is when price is not a key part of the conversation.

People are more inclined to pay the asking price for brands they don’t have to ask about.

You’re copied: This may seem a strange inclusion – but it’s a sign that your brand is seen as go-to and/or that your ideas are highly attractive when your competitors seek to emulate what you are doing. If your brand is beset by imitators take it as a sign that they, and others, clearly trust your judgment. The advantage you have, and the most powerful counter-strategy you can draw on, is that they can’t read your mind. Samsung has gained huge market share in the smartphone market, but, in a strange way, their doing so has also reinforced Apple’s desirability and pre-eminence in the category and that’s clear in the resurgence of sales following the release of the iPhone 6.

People trust leaders.

How to stay trusted

If your brand enjoys high-trust status with customers, congratulations. But, as Van Belleghem reminds us, there is no opportunity here to rest on your laurels. With that in mind, 9 questions to keep asking to stay truly trusted:

  1. What are your retention rates showing? Are your earnings-per-customer rising or falling?
  2. What’s the tone of the media coverage you get? Admiring or concerned?
  3. What’s the mood in social media? How do your customers and others talk about you?
  4. What’s the take-up on your new product releases? Unquestioning or reluctant?
  5. How often do people cite you as a positive example to others? How often do they compare you, in good ways, to your competitors?
  6. What are the review sites saying about you?
  7. How well and how quickly did you recover from your last crisis?
  8. Are you getting the price you want for what you do?
  9. What do others see in you that they try to copy? How are you continuing to capitalise on that advantage to reassure your customers?

Photo of “consumer confidence” taken by Chris and Karen Highland, sourced from Flickr

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