Lily Stephens
July 23, 2021

The relationship between trust and brand performance

Are you constantly trying to collect or connect with customers? Marketers tend to put a lot of focus on building their audience, and may not be putting as much effort into creating a long-lasting and trusting relationship with them. 

Trust is a powerful human emotion that influences brand relationships because it drives how we choose to act and invest our energy. The decision-making machinery and emotional centres in our brains are strongly linked to trust, and systems such as the amygdala and hippocampus light up when neuromarketing researchers use fMRI scans to monitor how customers assess brands.

These ancient parts of the brain have influenced trust and decision-making throughout the ages. So, it’s only natural that building trust and activating these systems is essential for marketers who are trying to influence human behaviour and purchase decisions. 

Cutting through the noise. 

Customers are constantly bombarded with brand content and ads, from many offline and digital fronts. To keep things simple, customers will often lean on simple, tried and tested decision-making techniques that work most of the time. One of the most powerful being trust. And the numbers back this idea up. The Edelman Trust Barometer report has shown that brand trust is a deciding factor for 81% of its participant’s brand buying decisions

A brand is what your customers tell each other it is.

A brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what other customers tell each other it is, so word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is a great way to start building trust. It may not be a new concept, but it has stood the test of time for a reason. The goal of WOMM is to encourage existing customers to share the positive experiences they have had with your brand with their connections. That’s because a recommendation from a trusted source can make other people perceive your brand positively.  

WOMM piggy-backs off the trust that a customer already has for a person that they know and love. Linking your product or brand to a known figure associated with expertise has been shown to activate the hippocampus in the brain and create positively associated memories. That’s why it’s so effective in generating recall, and influencer marketing and customer reviews are marketing techniques that have skyrocketed. Edelman’s Trust Barometer also showed that 63% of 18–34-year-olds trust influencers more than brands and 82% consider good customer reviews a deciding factor to buying a product. It’s no surprise that Instagram will soon help influencers to set up their own shops, making it easier for customers to shop directly from them rather than brands.

Podcast advertising is also starting to prove its weight in gold. Marketers that have opted for host-read, rather than voice talent ads have already been shown to yield greater emotional connection with listeners. Adding to that, so far in Australia, 77% of audiences have tracked improved brand awareness after listening to a podcast ad. This is a strong signal that familiarity and a personalised approach to marketing breed trust and positive connections. 

Be consistent.

We trust people that behave consistently. Their values match their actions, and their actions match their words, and we invest time and energy in them because we are able to predict positive outcomes. These thought patterns are no different for brands. 

Creating a brand image that matches the customer experience is essential. Customers can explore and evaluate your brand across a variety of touchpoints, and it’s essential for them to have a consistent experience that incrementally builds their trust every time. It doesn’t take a lot for an inconsistency to cause the fearful amygdala to fire a fight or flight response, and all of the positive associations you have previously built can be destroyed. Mark Ritson called this out at large when he begged for marketers to walk the talk amid the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Trust can make or break brands. 

Brands can make or break trust with something as big as a values-aligned content strategy, or as small as having the correct opening hours on a Google My Business listing or a fast-loading web page. The situation is different, but the fundamental emotional centres which are triggered are the same.

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