Your brand is nothing without trust

At the very beginning of our branding journey with new clients at Di Marca, probably within the first 10 minutes of a Brand Bulls Eye™ Workshop, we introduce what is ultimately the most important branding truth… Unless your brand is underpinned by a commitment to building trust then nothing else really matters. As trust ultimately comes from the truth, if your brand isn’t in the game of being honest, telling the truth, and these days also doing good – then you’re going to be in trouble.

Unless your brand is underpinned by a commitment to building trust then nothing else really matters. Click To Tweet

There are plenty of examples of how important trust to brand. Nike spent millions building their brand throughout the 80’s and early 90’s before allegations of abusive labour practices came to light. In hindsight, it took them far to long to address things (almost 10 years) and during that time people’s level of trust in the brand really took a hit (and rightly so). Even today after things have improved and Nike is completely transparent about their labour and audits their factories and working conditions regularly, the Nike brand will probably always have some association with sweatshops no matter what they do.

More recently Volkswagen’s systematic cheating of emissions tests has not only shattered trust in the car brand, it has dragged down the brand value of Germany by $191 Billion! It remains to be seen how the Volkswagen brand will fair in the long run. In America sales dropped 24.7 per cent in this November, however sales have started to rebound slightly in Australia according to VFACT.

Like Nike before it, Volkswagen may well be big enough financially and ultimately have a brand strong enough to weather the storm, but most brands don’t have resources or the brand equity of these global powerhouses.

When smaller brands break the trust/truth cycle it can be fatal for them. Even if you’re only doing business in local markets, if your brand gets a reputation for under-delivering or deceptive behaviour it can spread quickly, especially considering social media which has the ability to amplify what was previously word of mouth around the globe instantly.

Remember GASP Clothing? In 2011 a terribly handled customer complaint in Australia went viral around the world, ending up in New Yorks’ Daily News a couple of days later.  While they would never admit it, once customers couldn’t trust that the staff at GASP weren’t bitching about them behind their back after they left the store it was the beginning of the end. A year later, GASP were no more.

Trust and reputation go hand in hand really. For brands that are built on the back of constant innovation, their customers come to trust that they will always be innovating buy their products because of this. This is why Apple has been so successful, and also why some people are beginning to question whether they are still the company they once were, because it’s been quite a while since they have released a truly game changing product like the iPad, and the iPhone before it.

Trust can be built at difficult customer touch points too. Every brand has these type of touch points – things like lost baggage for airlines,  returned orders or negative customer reviews for restaurants, or things like late or faulty orders for product brands. Trust can be built here through a combination of honesty and specific protocols in line with your brand’s essence, guided by set of clear and simple brand values and behaviours. At these moments of truth, when customers are often distressed, emotional and disappointed, you can create customers for life with the appropriate strategies. If a mistake has been made, identify it, own it, and do what is necessary to earn that trust back. We can all recall situations where brands have gone that extra mile to fix a negative experience, in fact we’ve probably told our friends and family all about them many times over afterwards; and probably even shared that experience on social media too…

What do your customers expect from you, and where have you built your trust? Why do your customers really trust you,  and here could you break the trust/truth cycle if you’re not careful? If you’re in charge of a brand or part of the team building one, ask yourself these questions regularly. If you do happen to break the trust/truth cycle, don’t just say you’re sorry – really do something to show that you are; something to remind them why they trusted your brand in the first place.




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