The trust crisis in marketing

By Lynn Manternach / Marketing Column

We’re in the midst of a consumer trust crisis. You see it in the news nearly every day. Data hacks. Data misuse. Privacy breaches. Phishing. Fake news.  

Trust matters for brands. It’s fragile. It’s hard to earn and easy to lose. And it’s incredibly important to consumers. 

In a recent study, PwC found that more than one in three customers ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer, other than price. 

Trust is the foundation of brand loyalty. Loyal customers are not just repeat customers who trust you enough to choose your product or company without considering other options. They will also frequently recommend your product or business to others.  

So what can you do to build trust and loyalty with your customers?  

Start with a clear value proposition. 

Your brand’s value proposition is the first promise you make. It represents your purpose and tells your customers what your brand can do for them. 

If it’s not carefully considered, well-researched or clearly understood by your audience, it’s likely to damage your relationship with customers and your ability to retain them. 

There are two primary components of trust: competence and benevolence. Competence represents your brand’s ability to deliver on promises. Benevolence represents the motives and intentions beneficial to consumers or the attributes that matter most to them. 

Both benevolence and competence should be embodied in your value proposition. You will build trust when you focus on what matters most to your customers and how your brand will deliver that.  

Listen to what your customers are saying. 

Open as many paths to connecting with your customers as possible. 

Learn how they think, feel and behave toward your brand. Talk to them. Read their comments about your brand online. Interact with them on social media. Make it easy for them to tell you what they think.

Consider formal research, informal research and daily interactions to determine who your customers are and what they care about. 

Use these insights to understand what it is about your product or service that brings your loyal customers back for more, and make sure those elements are consistently delivered across all brand touchpoints. 

Develop content that builds trust 

The right kind of content can establish your brand as a thought leader and provide readers with information they can actually use. If you can position your brand as a valuable resource, consumers will feel much more confident buying or considering a purchase from your brand. 

The only way to build that trust is to make absolutely sure the content does not come from a sales or promotional perspective. It has to be educational and authentic, with the total focus on helping the reader, not selling your services. 

The brand experience matters

A successful marketing campaign may drive new customers through your doors, but if the brand experience doesn’t meet their expectations, they won’t return If what you say and what you do don’t match, you’ve damaged trust from the beginning.

Authenticity is important for ongoing relationships with customers. Without it, there is no relationship. Make sure everyone in your organization understands their role in delivering an on-brand customer experience.  

Building trust is important for any organization’s ongoing success. While consumer trust may be in a state of crisis across society these days, it doesn’t have to be for your brand. Stay focused on connecting with your customers and delivering on your brand promise to keep loyalty and trust on solid ground. 

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. ( in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire, Iowa. Contact Lynn at