Trust is considered by many as the bedrock of a brand underlying all perceptions. You need trust for people to believe you will live up to your brand promise. Without trust your assertions about your brand will ring hollow. And creating and maintaining trust is especially difficult given the fact that trust in brands globally has been eroding for the last two decades. Yet there are brands that have achieved a high level of trust. Who are those brands and how have they done it?

Answers to these questions come in part from the new 2017 brand relevance survey conducted by Prophet of the strength of 275 top brands from over 25 categories using U.S. respondents that were active in the category and familiar with the brand. The survey used 16 measures that were combined to create a measure of attachment to the brand that is termed its Brand Relevance Index™ (BRI). One of the 16 measures in the survey was “a brand I trust.”

Top 25 Most Trusted Brands

In looking at the top 25 brands on the trust scale, four groupings seem to emerge. The first are heritage packaged-goods brands, brands that have earned a reputation for reliability over generations. The second are “star” brands that are strong on all of the 16 dimensions and have top BRI scores. The remaining two include a pair of specialty retailers and two package delivery brands.

All the top trust brands are perceived to deliver to their brand promise over time consistently and reliably. There can be a slip-up if it is convincingly corrected so that it is judged an abnormality, the exception that proves the rule. It nearly all the top truest brands, the performance is visible, the brand can be counted on because these respondents have had first-hand experience with the brand or know someone who has. However, the perception of trust is almost always based on more than brand experience.

Reliable Consumer Brands

The first trust grouping, the heritage consumer brands, have earned a reputation for reliability over generations. They dominate the trust dimension and include three of the top five brands (Band-Aid, Tide and Crest), 6 of the top 10 (add Cheerios, Clorox and Kleenex) and 13 of the top 25 (add Dove, Johnson & Johnson, Hershey’s, Windex, Pillsbury, Betty Cocker, and Ziploc).

These brands have certainly earned trust for reasons that go beyond their demonstrated reliability. They have associations of mom, grandmother, family, traditions, support you can count on, warmth, security, and permanence. They are part of a person’s history and values and create feelings that affect judgments. This array of associations create trust in the brand, a perception that is likely more important in making a trust evaluation that any brand experience.

Those packaged-goods brands sharing the same categories that are much lower on trust are usually new brands like Kashi, Chobani, or Method or brands that have a heritage that is weak or unhelpful in supporting trust perceptions, brands like Pop Tarts, Axe, or Red Bull.

Star Brands

The second grouping of high trust brands, the star brands, are that have the highest BRI scores. Of the 8 brands in this star category, three are among the top five BRI brands (Apple, Amazon and Netflix) and all eight are in the top 25 (add Pandora, KitchenAid, PayPal, Fitbit, Bose). By comparison, none of the 13-heritage packaged-goods brands were in the top 25 in the BRI overall score, the highest was Dove at 27.

These brands had two other characteristics. First, they occupied meaningful parts of a person’s life and lifestyle. Second, they achieve high levels of performance in a very visible way. A person knows when there has been a mess up.

Strong Brands are Trusted Brands

The power of a strong brand will for sure influence perceptions of trust. It will support a trust judgment because it provides a set of proof points as shown by their scores on the other 15 dimensions. Additionally, there is a halo effect. A brand that is strong on 15 dimensions will be assumed to be strong on the 16th in the absence of some information that is inconsistent. So again, we see perceptions of trust based on a broad array of brand image elements in addition to brand reliability.

The other four brands in the top 25 on the trust question come from more specialized categories and benefit from the trust engendered by their high performance within those categories. The North Face and Trader Joes are specialty retailers and were at the top of the trust measure of a 33-brand set of retailers with brands like Neiman Marcus, 7-Eleven and J. Crew. The final two brands in the top 25 were FedEx and UPS both of which are positioned around reliability and have created the infrastructure and computer system to deliver.

Final Thoughts

Managers of those brands that aspire to have customers believe they should be trusted should learn from brands that have climbed that mountain. Knowing what has been the driver of trust should help them chart their path and analyze the feasibility of attaining their goal.

Looking for more information on the most relevant brands? We surveyed 50,000 consumers to determine which unique brands they cannot live without. Get the full Prophet Brand Relevance Index™ here. 

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