The truth about consumer trust: Where do brands stand?

March 1, 2023

In a world of fake news, disinformation, deepfake images and political scandals, consumer trust is a rare and precious commodity. In this context, the challenge for brands is to be seen as authentic and reliable. So what can brands do to earn consumers’ trust – and keep it? 

Combining Foresight Factory’s proprietary global data with the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, we’ve uncovered the ways that consumers seek truth in a world of misinformation, and how brands can navigate this tumultuous landscape and earn consumer trust. Below is a preview of our full report published on Collision, with three key takeaways for brands. 

1. Find relevant, practical ways to make your customers’ lives better

Customers lives better

According to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, businesses are the only major type of institution that is trusted by consumers, with a trust rating of 60% or over, whereas government, the media and NGOs are all in the neutral category of under 60%. This is a reversal of the picture back in May 2020, when in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, government was actually the most trusted of the categories, at 65%. 

Take advantage of the fact that businesses are seen as a unifying force capable of producing results. The idea that businesses have replaced government as a trusted institution and unifying force in society is explored in our Naked Citizen trend, which looks at how consumers must increasingly face life’s challenges with limited support from government. One of the most memorable examples of a company stepping in where the state has failed is Domino’s Pizza offering to fill in potholes in roads in the US to allow smoother delivery of orders. The campaign cut through because it very visibly addressed an issue that affects the everyday lives of many customers.

2. Leverage technology to provide radical transparency 

Fake news - dice

The high levels of trust placed in businesses doesn’t mean they are exempt from consumer scrutiny. In fact, evidence suggests that openness and transparency are essential to gaining and maintaining that trust. Our data shows that 70% of global consumers (24-country average) agreed in 2021 that brands should do more to prove their product claims. The corresponding figure in 2018 was 69%, showing that no progress has been made in the interim.  

At the same time, over half of global consumers (53%) agree they find it difficult to know what information to trust online, and 1 in 8 said in 2022 that they have stopped using a brand in the last year because it lied or made misleading claims. The opportunity for brands is to position as dedicated to openness. Consumers can already scan QR codes and use other methods to trace the origins of food products. What other tech could you harness to prove your credentials? Increasingly, blockchain technology promises even more radical transparency and openness, though there will likely need to be a programme of education for many consumers to understand and make the most of its capabilities.

3. Emphasise your scientific credibility

Scientific credibility - scientist in the laboratory

Out of a range of professions asked about, scientists are the group most likely to be trusted by consumers, with 76% globally trusting them. This puts them ahead of coworkers, national health authorities and fellow citizens, and certainly ahead of government leaders, journalists and CEOs, who are all classed as distrusted. Edelman also finds that basing actions on science is a key way in which businesses can avoid being seen as politically motivated when taking a stand on contentious social issues. 

Trust in scientific experts is also growing over time. In 2021, 56% of GB consumers, and 48% in the US, say they easily accept the authority of scientific experts – and that’s up from 45% and 41% respectively in 2016. As a brand, you should consider bringing to the fore the technical expertise at your disposal, and above all being open and transparent about the practices and processes you use. The greater focus placed on science and innovation as a solution to human problems could counter the idea that natural is always best, as long as the advantages are clearly set out.

Want to know more? 

The findings in this blog are from our New trust landscape report on Collision, the trends intelligence platform that can make a real difference to your business. If you want to access the full report and learn about how Collision can power growth for you, get in touch now. 


Written by Content Team

The Content Team produces all the reports and articles that get published on our dynamic consumer trends intelligence platform, Collision. By tracking trends, monitoring signals of change across sectors and audiences, and working alongside our data team to digest and analyse our proprietary consumer research, they help leading global brands strengthen strategic relevance and gain a competitive edge.

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