Trust is the New Currency for Brands

The media is seemingly fixated on stories regarding businesses and organizations that betray the consumer’s trust, and in our current world of social media, a brand’s reliability can be challenged by a single unfortunate customer experience. Because of these (and many other) factors, the value in the currency of trust has never been higher, as customer loyalty can be destroyed in a moment’s notice.

Consumers today are facing a crisis of trust, with trust in nearly every type of institution at or near all-time lows [1]. One report shows a global decline in trust over the last year, with 63 percent surveyed saying they refused to purchase a product or service because they distrusted a particular company [2]. In order to fully understand the critical role trust plays in consumer behavior and brand loyalty, PARTNERS+simons recently set out to measure national trust driver benchmarks across several sectors. The findings were enlightening.

Only about half of respondents (49%) say they trust their health insurance plan. Only 15% say they have a high level of trust in large banks. And only 10% say they have a high level of trust of Congress – with poll after poll showing Congress’ approval rating at record-setting lows.

Even running for President doesn’t win you much these days, with our research showing that more people trust Dr. Oz than a number of the leading presidential candidates including Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush.

Today’s consumers interact with brands through multiple channels, increasing the emotional association with the brands they support. This is especially true in the healthcare space, as the way brands interact with patients can have an immediate and direct impact on their lives. This highly personal and sensitive interaction with the healthcare industry, coupled with the overload of complex information that is readily available, creates a great deal of vulnerability for healthcare entities.

In fact, our findings showed that only 19% of people have a high degree of trust in medical info they get from a hospital or health plan provider’s advertising, while 41% trust medical info read on websites like WebMD. By contrast, physicians continue to be a highly trusted source of medical information (68%).

But, while trust is at an all-time low, it is still a critical factor that influences consumer choice. For instance, even though trust is waning, it’s also the most important factor for consumers when choosing and recommending a hospital, outstripping rankings and location by a wide margin. Of the respondents who said they did trust their hospital, 89 percent also said they would recommend it to a friend or colleague. The same was true for health insurance, and 74 percent of respondents said they were more likely to purchase health insurance from a company they trusted. The Trust Index also shows that almost nine in ten consumers who trust a healthcare brand will also recommend it, compared to just six percent of those who do not trust the brand.

Clearly consumer habits in the healthcare space depend greatly on trust, and the same is true in just about every other industry. In fact, HAVAS Media reported that 2015’s most meaningful brands outperformed the stock market by 133% (an increase of 13% since 2013.)

The bottom line? Trust is good for business, and good for customer loyalty.

Today’s trust deficit is both a threat and an opportunity to marketers in every industry. No one can promise to deliver trust. That would be a self-defeating claim. It can only be earned by a collaborative effort between a brand and its consumers every single day. Above all else, trust must find its way into a contemporary organization’s value proposition equation.

[1] Gallup poll

[2] Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer

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