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Think BR: In whom we trust

How can brands earn trust and create a proposition that lives up to consumer expectation, asks Jo Boyd, managing director, Anthem Worldwide UK.

Jo Boyd, managing director, Anthem Worldwide UK

Jo Boyd, managing director, Anthem Worldwide UK

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As consumers become increasingly concerned about their future financial security and domestic stability, there is evidence that they are looking to the past and returning to those brands, cultural icons and environments that act as a ‘security blanket’ in uncertain times.

For example, in the US Keds has had a revival and is now expanding from shoes into clothing, and TV shows such as Charlie’s Angels and Hawaii Five-O are back.

In the UK the Dunlop fashion brand and Dewhurst butchers are being re-launched, while House of Fraser has brought back vintage fashion brand Biba. 

This serves as a powerful reminder of the importance for brands to build and retain consumers’ trust. 

It’s a deeply embedded requirement that needs to be earned with each and every product, communication and at each and every touchpoint.  

Trust is, and always has been, critical to brand success; without the reassurance of present quality and future performance, a brand will be short lived.

The resurgence or ‘re-booting’ of old brands is not necessarily a new trend, but what’s really interesting is its direct correlation with the economy.

It may be that during shaky economic times consumers are harking back to simpler, happier, less stressful times, and looking to brands to provide a sense of security and reassurance.

How do brands remind consumers that they are tried, tested and, most importantly, trustworthy?

The web, social media and the rise of mobile and ubiquitous connectivity, mean that today’s brands are both ‘made’ and ‘owned’ by the consumer. 

Today’s consumers are more socially connected; they are persuaders who are engaged and openly share their views and opinions, including those about products and brands that interest them.

They expect the same values to resonate in the brands they buy as well as the retailers they buy from.

This, coupled with increasing consumer ambivalence towards traditional marketing messages, and the tendency for customers to trust each other more than brands, has resulted in a world of total transparency. 

Today’s brands cannot hide behind artifice and ‘clever’ marketing; they have to live up to their brand promise and remain true to their core values in order to build and maintain trust. Otherwise they risk exposure, often with damaging and lasting effects.

A good example is Domino’s Pizza. A few years ago disgruntled employees placed a disparaging video on YouTube, which featured antics in the kitchen and the mishandling of food served to customers. The video spread virally, views reached beyond the million mark and Domino’s was subjected to very public, global criticism.

The rise of ecommerce sites and communities such as Amazon,, Mumsnet and Trip Advisor have given consumers global platforms to keep brands honest.

Enthusiastic customer feedback or endorsement on retailers’ sites carries powerful credibility, just as negative comments can adversely affect a potential customer’s purchasing decision.

Why revive brands that have been ‘laid to rest’ by consumers?

The argument for reviving an old brand in favour of creating a new one is simple - it is often cheaper and quicker to drive recognition and association when you’re building on residual awareness and long established positive feelings, while introducing new brands to the market is expensive and high risk. 

Although the web and social media have ensured consumers are more connected in one sense, it has also driven real, personal interaction further away.

Combine this with a growing sense that the establishment is becoming increasingly remote, and consumers are left with a clear sense that they are losing connectivity to the foundations of their lives.

As consumers we can feel disconnected and somewhat adrift. The perennial challenge for marketers is to make memorable brand connections with the consumer.

This is where time-honoured brands with long established credentials have the advantage. Brand memories and connections are already in place and do not need to be re-created from scratch. Brand revival allows for rediscovery across generations.

Those that used and trusted the brand in the past retain positive associations and can fuel the sense of discovery in younger generations. What is nostalgia for one generation can be new and authentic for another.

Heritage brands are able to reinvent themselves using their history and legacy. The trick is to not rely solely on their glory days.

To generate desirability, these brands need to reinvent themselves for a new generation, while retaining their core values.

Brands that have succeeded include Converse, which reintroduced and updated Chuck Taylor All-Stars. The VW Beetle retained its classic feel, while improving the product to meet modern day standards.

How do brands build trust?

Marketers are operating in a more discerning market; consumers continue to buy brands but they are placing confidence, transparency and an understanding of their needs ahead of other requirements, making trust a vital differentiator, and not just in economically difficult times.

Consumer trust creates significant benefits including repeat purchases, customer advocacy and price protection. The best ways to build trust are:

  1. Trust is rooted in positive memories and current relevance. Review your brand’s equities and assets and challenge yourself to breathe new life into bits of the brand’s history that have been ignored by generations of brand managers determined to make their mark and create things afresh
  2. To thine own self be true - authenticity helps drive success. In today’s overcrowded markets consumers are leaning towards brands that have greater meaning and credibility. Consumers are fuelled by a desire to connect with brands that have a clear sense of who they are and what they believe in. Consistency of tone and presentation are critical to support this.
  3. Embrace consumer interaction, encourage a sense of community and nurture brand advocacy by positively welcoming feedback and comment. As more and more consumers rely on peer recommendations it is essential for brands to identify influencers and encourage communities to build a trusted and positive position. Marketers need to actively invest in the resources to manage the brand’s connections with its consumers.  

Jo Boyd, managing director, Anthem Worldwide UK

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