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Study reveals key factors which lead consumers to trust brands


For a word bandied around in communications as often as it is, trust can be a slippery concept. To some businesses, trust (especially consumer or customer trust) means loyalty. The very reason people keep coming back must be evidence of it. However, when you look just that little bit deeper, that’s not the case at all.

Trust can be built, but can also be easily lost. Few definitions really reflect what consumers are looking for from brands when it comes to trust. This is because often, when brands undertake structured market research, consumers pick from pre-chosen answers. When it comes to trust, brands don’t truly listen.

To understand how to improve this dynamic, creative data agency SHARE Creative conducted a global social listening project, exploring what informs people’s trust when they are talking organically.

Findings show ethics count

Whilst specific brand trust footprints could be highly individual - as you would expect - we identified common pillars which inform consumer perceptions: business responsibility and ethics; loyalty, as what keeps customers repeat purchasing or engaging with a brand; marketing tools and tactics; and branding and identity. What stands out is that brands themselves can influence these factors - how they act, how they communicate, the image they choose to project. The secret to this equation? How well this projected image matches up with the brand picture and experiences that individuals hold themselves.

Five cornerstones of trust

Our report found five main areas which brands should focus on to build those cornerstones of solid trust. For example, reliability. Factors in a product or service offering need to be dependable, for people to know what to expect. Responsibility: company behaviour needs to be ethical or responsible, and acting in ways which supplant this expectation will upset customer connection. Authenticity - in both communications and deeds. Active and clear communication of purpose, mission and values. And finally, consistency: embodying those values and beliefs in the long term.

Automotive brand examples

This is easy to say on paper, but hard to live in principle. Considering multiple countries, different channels, and various stakeholders, the picture becomes more complex and unique from brand to brand. For example, looking into automotive we found that Ford’s longevity was a major driver in positive perception, scoring higher than other automotive brands when it comes to consistency.

BMW overindexed significantly on reliability and scored above average on authenticity and consistency. Across the automotive board, purposeful and responsible scores were relatively low - even when marketing and brand-out signals are important to building customer bonds, this is an arena where automotive is yet to truly find connection.

Tech brand results

Looking beyond automotive, where single trust pillars tended to dominate, we also explored trust in a range of technology brands. It became apparent that trust overall was less of an issue, but that people did want these businesses to connect across all five pillars on some level, leading with authenticity and reliability.

Understand trust to build trust

Most brands know trust is a non-negotiable. Understanding the resonance of trust can direct more effective marketing behaviours, to boost any pillars of trust which may be lagging. Equally, analysing what makes your trust factor unique will also inform and reinforce its identity overall, reminding both internal and external audiences of what makes that particular product or service unique. Exploring trust provides a fresh perspective on what communications have the power to influence and shift. In a changing world, this north star can keep brand decisions on track to success.


SHARE Creative used social listening that studied tens of thousands of conversations online to track all words associated with existing definitions of ‘brand trust’. Then, to find common themes, utilised UMAP Clustering to analyse what users are discussing online and ultimately understand what trust means for consumers - and what brands in those spaces can do about it.

Written by Alex Hill, co-founder and executive creative director at SHARE Creative

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