Brands must earn trust before they qualify for love

Trust requires social responsibility

Sunanda Brahma
Vice President
Kantar Millward Brown, Firefly Practice
Sunanda.Brahma@kantarmillwardbrown.com

We live in a world with a huge trust deficit. Just as trust in human relationships has been eroded by our phones and online lives, trust in brands has been damaged by overpromises and failure to deliver.

Brands are different than products. Products are goods, ideas, objects, or services created as a result of a process to satisfy a need or a want. Products result from manufacturing processes and appeal to rational needs. Brands, however, are about feelings and emotions that we invest in certain products for the emotional rewards that we get from them. So, while products occupy our minds, brands sit in our hearts and we imbue them with the same feelings that we would any human relationship.

Love does not just happen in either in human relationships or in brands. There is considerable work that goes into creating a scenario where this love can be seeded and then grown. For instance, when Maggi 2-minute noodles were launched, the brand consistently delivered on the promise that you don’t need to spend hours in a kitchen to be a good mother. You can be a great and caring mother even in just two minutes.

Mothers across the length and breadth of the country liked this message. They respected the brand for its confidence, trusted the brand as it consistently delivered on what it said, and they finally committed themselves to the brand. It is this combination of consumer emotions that have made Maggi noodles one of the most loved brands in India.

LOVE AND TRUST ENTWINED

Trust is a fundamental, non-negotiable, and core element of love. If you cannot trust, you will not be able to love. Love is an emotion that is based on trust, on the reliability and truth that is demonstrated in every single interaction. Trust, if lost, damages love often irretrievably, and it is a long and hard journey to restore that trust.

The building of brand trust happens at different levels across the cycle of interaction with consumers. Trust is seeded when it delivers consistently on what it promises. Ikea promises a better everyday life for people, and for that there is a wide range of well-designed and functional home furnishing products, at prices that as many people as possible will be able to afford. Ikea delivers on this promise consistently and every time. This evokes respect and trust, which leads to commitment and brand love.

However, consistent delivery is not enough. Brands also must become a means of self-expression for the consumer. Nike saw a tremendous rise in its popularity after it introduced the “Just do it” campaign. The campaign targeted Americans regardless of age, gender, or physical abilities to lead a healthy and fit life. Nike then created a campaign taking this work of self-expression further by saying if you have a body, you can be an athlete.

BRAND TRUST TODAY

In the world that we live in today, trust needs much harder work and it is in this environment that social responsibility has become a key factor in furthering and building trust in a brand. Consumers have begun to question and doubt brands that hurt the earth, stay blind to social evils, and have a profit-only motive. Unilever was taken to task for mercury dumping. Cola companies have been charged with using contaminated water and reducing the ground water levels in certain areas. Consumers are aware today that as the companies who own these brands earn a profit, they must take responsibility for the planet and its people.

Building trust in this context cannot be achieved by communication alone; there has to be real action. Unilever promised that action would be taken against mercury dumping. After a tainted food scandal, over a decade ago, Cadbury upgraded its machinery and packaging materials and retained Amitabh Bachchan, the film star, to vouch for quality. Nestlé removed Maggi noodles from the market temporarily, for additional testing, while allegations of high lead content were investigated.

In conclusion, what we can say is that there can be no love without trust. Brand love is a dynamic balance of liking, respect, honesty, and commitment. An erosion in any one of these factors would lead to a damaged relationship with the brand. Actions speak louder than words, and trustworthiness has to be demonstrated for people to believe. Once trust is gone, love will simply not suffice.

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