KHWS Blog: Trust. It’s an issue. How behavioural science can help build brand trust

Trust. It’s an issue. How behavioural science can help build brand trust

Behavioural Insight

2016 saw consumer trust hit rock-bottom. Burned by the recession, fake news and CSR scandals from major brands, consumers have been lurched into the post-truth era. Which is why it’s no surprise that Ipsos Global Trends found that 80% of consumers find it difficult to know who and what to trust due to the overwhelming amount of contradictory information available from mixed sources. Trust is an ongoing serious concern for brands, and consequently marketers. There must be a fail-safe way to build a stronger bond with consumers.

Marketers must arm themselves with a greater knowledge of the sales triggers that influence shoppers, and then identify how to use them to their advantage. It could well prove the solution that the ‘loss of trust’ challenge requires.

73% of consumers are more likely to try a new product if it comes from a trusted brand (Ipsos Global Trends), which means that developing and nurturing trust means big business. Our work with behavioural science, and the research that we are currently conducting with Durham University Business School, has allowed us to identify three tactics that to help brands and marketers re-connect with consumers, build customer loyalty, and ultimately restore brand trust.

State the obvious

In an era of proliferating content, honest and transparent communications help brands to stand out. When trying to build trust, consider promoting the obvious truth of your brand in a humble, non-pretentious way. By facing your product’s weaknesses head-on, consumers are more likely to form a positive association with the brand, particularly if your brand is generally well perceived. This is illustrated by the Pratfall effect where a person or a product is seen in a more favourable light by turning a negative aspect into a positive feature. Guinness’s “good things comes to those who wait” campaign showcased this technique, effectively positioning the taste and quality of Guinness to outweigh the negative aspect of the time taken to pour a pint.

Everyone likes a freebie

If you are confident in your product, allowing consumers to try it for free will enable them to experience the value of ownership without the financial commitment. Consumers are more likely to trust a brand if they have had the opportunity to evaluate it personally – it will help build longer lasting, deeper relationships. Sampling doesn’t have to be limited to FMCG either. Recently there has been an influx of mattress companies, such as Caspar and Eve, offering returns up to 100 nights if products do not live up to expectations. It allows consumers to freely form an opinion, allowing trust to develop organically.

Why recommendations work

Influencer marketing is a booming sector. Now a significant part of many marketer’s strategies, it plays heavily into our inherently social nature. However, there are pertinent questions around the measurement of return on investment (ROI) and regulation of the sector which need to be considered. Findings from a recent Inkling report found that there are a myriad of aspects that impact an influencer’s trustworthiness – including number of followers, knowledge and quality of content. It’s a complex maze to navigate. However, building trust through an existing loyal customer base is arguably easier. Athleisure brand, Lululemon’s #thesweatlife campaign, is a great example of using consumer endorsement instead. Having consumers upload photos wearing their brand signalled that Lululemon is valued and trusted to the extent that people enjoy proactively championing the brand.

Science is key

Trust adds value to a brand and encourages consumers to spend more in a competitive environment (Mintel Trust and Brands 2017). It also acts as a solution to ‘choice overload’ by quickly reducing the number of brands and products in consideration, saving time and cognitive resources when purchasing. It increases sales, establishes loyalty, and as a result offers security and reassurance for both brands and consumers. Harnessing the power of behavioural science is the key to unlocking the successful trust activity. Researching the specific triggers that help build trust in individual sectors is paramount. Marketers must then shape strategies accordingly to facilitate brands establishing long-lasting, truthful relationships with consumers in the post-truth era.


Authors: Bjorn Persson and Michael Sandstrom