The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust reveals that brand trust (53 percent) is the second most important purchasing factor for brands across most geographies, age groups, gender and income levels, trailing only price (64 percent). The survey of 22,000+ respondents in 11 markets reveals that brand trust is more vital than reputation, performance or how well a brand treats its customers, its employees or the environment.
“Trust has become a game changer for brands because it addresses people’s fears about personal safety, most notably vulnerability on health, financial stability, and privacy” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “The long-held practice of standing aside during controversies and crises is no longer an option for brands. An Edelman flash poll in early June on Brands and Racial Justice in America* found that 60 percent of people will buy or boycott based on a brand’s response to current racial justice protests. And brands are also four times more likely to gain trust than lose it when they take action in response to systemic racism and racial injustices.”
Nearly half (46 percent) of respondents trust most of the brands they buy or use, a 12-point increase from last year with massive jumps of more than 20 points in the U.S., Brazil and Germany. Brand response during the pandemic has also had a significant impact on consumer behavior; 44 percent (up 7 points since April) have recently started using a new brand based on their response to the pandemic, while 40 percent (up 6 points since April) have convinced other people to stop using a brand due to a brand’s response to the pandemic.
Respondents overwhelmingly want brands to take action, solve problems and advocate for change. An overwhelming majority say solving “my problems” (85 percent) and “society’s problems” (80 percent) matter most for brands today. People want brands to drive change, by being a positive force in shaping our culture (58 percent) and by working to make the future better than the present (61 percent).
In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, people want brands to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and suppliers (90 percent).^ Within the U.S., respondents also want brands to play a larger role socially by educating about and advocating for racial equality (58 percent); creating change in society that addresses the roots of racial inequality (60 percent); and backing up their words on racial equality with action (63 percent).*
“Brands are seen as having more power than their corporate parents because they are answerable to the belief-driven consumer exercising brand democracy,” said Edelman. “There is a demand for tangible actions, not just communications, for brands to partner with government to find a safe way to return to normal service or to shift the product mix to help people meet the new challenges of life.”
The study also revealed trust as the key to brand loyalty and deeper, resilient relationships. Six times as many respondents say they will only buy a brand they trust. Seventy-five percent of consumers with high brand trust say they will buy a product even if it isn’t the cheapest, is the only brand of this product they’ll buy, and immediately check out a new product from that brand. Respondents are nearly five times more likely to advocate for a high trust brand and are more than twice as likely to share their personal information or pay attention to brand advertising.
But earned media is far more effective than advertising when it comes to earning trust. Nearly seven in 10 people say they avoid advertising: 78 percent of people age 18-34 use one or more advertising avoidance strategies; 73 percent for people age 35-54. Trust is won through personal experience (59 percent), earned media (44 percent) and peer conversation (39 percent). And consumers are more inclined to listen to an industry expert (60 percent), a person like yourself (59 percent) and a brand tech expert (49 percent).
“Trusted brands live at the intersection of personal and societal issues, where words meet actions,” said Megan Van Someren, global chair of Brand at Edelman. “There is a new risk reward equation for brands; you have to act to remain relevant to your consumer. Dove’s Crown Act campaign designed to end hair discrimination or Ajinomoto’s #TakeOutHate effort encouraging people to order Asian takeout are examples of brands who invest in actions as much as communications.”