How Major Brands Won with Trust-Centered Marketing

By Carrie Dagenhard on March 5, 2019

Every successful relationship requires a healthy foundation of trust, and the relationship between brands and buyers is no different. Without trust, there is no brand loyalty-and without loyalty, it's pretty difficult to earn repeat purchases, customer referrals, and ultimately grow your market share.

With consumer trust in U.S. brands currently at 54 percent, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, this poses a great opportunity for brands to emerge as industry leaders through trust-centered marketing. It's a method that can improve your overall brand image and also help you recover from any blunders or correct misconceptions around your brand message.

Here are three things your brand must absolutely do when building trust with consumers-and brands who got it just right.

1. Focus on People Over Products

Recognizing your blunders isn't easy, and publicly acknowledging your missteps can be downright brutal. However, accepting responsibility for your brand's mistakes is essential for healing broken trust and moving forward. Additionally, this level of authenticity and vulnerability can earn you big points with your audience.

Take Domino's, for example. Just a decade ago, the company was facing all-time low stock prices and a struggling brand image. But instead of packing it in, the pizza empire embraced the criticism as inspiration to change, using storytelling to publicize their rebranding journey.

Domino's brought cameras into their Ann Arbor, Michigan headquarters and filmed their team's dedicated efforts to overhaul the ingredients and recipes in which test groups responded negatively to. The footage was compiled for a documentary-style video called The Pizza Turnaround. This win-back campaign, combined with a snazzy new online ordering interface, transformed audience opinion and rebuilt trust for the Dominos brand. Why? Because they used the real experiences of their audience to tell new stories and built a marketing strategy that was informed by feedback and providing exceptional experiences.

In a recent blog post John Bell, VP Enterprise Digital Marketing at Travelers writes, "If we want to strengthen trust between brands and customers, one way we will do that is by revealing our humanity. " Bell and Skyword CMO Patricia Travaline are hosting a webinar to demonstrate how marketers can build greater relevance through focusing on bringing customers content that cares about solving their problems rather than pushing a product.

bridging the trust gap webinar banner

Travelers Insurance recently released a brand storytelling initiative focused on helping injured workers avoid chronic pain as a way to combat the ongoing opioid crisis. When describing his inspiration for the piece, Bell writes, that the stories are about "people digging into hard problems. Each is told by a real person. If there is any pride in these storytellers, it is in the knowledge that they are trying to apply their specialisms-safety and health, risk management, recovery and more-to real problems people and business face. Few people wake up each day within large companies solely motivated by improving the share price. Financial health is a means to an end. The impact a thriving business can have on its communities is substantial."

2. Invest in Brand Purpose

Trust-centered marketing is all about the mantra "show don't tell." While brands have the means to make whatever claims they want about their products, these declarations won't be believed by consumers unless there's evidence to back them up.

That's why it's key for companies to apply a healthy chunk of their marketing budget toward strengthening their brand purpose when building trust with consumers. And one company to look at for inspiration is Barclays.

Around 2009, Barclays-along with several other banks-was fined for falsely reporting interest rates, subsequently causing consumers to lose trust in their brand. After suffering some big losses, the brand launched a strategy to turn it all around in early 2013, announcing a new brand purpose focused on "helping people achieve their ambitions-in the right way."

Barclays started internally: rewriting its brand values, training 140,000 employees on its new purpose and culture, and recognizing employees for making positive contributions in their communities. Next, Barclays released a series of videos highlighting these good deeds, such as their employee-created program the Digital Eagles, which focuses on teaching people the technical skills needed to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

The result? Just a year after launching its new brand purpose, Barclays' net promoter score was up 300 percent, according to the American Marketing Association.

Regain Trust Through Storytelling

Image attribution: Hillary Fox

3. Build Trusting Audience Relationships

To truly succeed in trust-centered marketing, your brand also has to be memorable. And to be memorable, you have to be interesting, entertaining, and relatable. Simply put: Nobody remembers a boring brand.

One brand that nails this concept is Southwest: The airline with the brightly-colored jets, off-script flight attendants, and egalitarian open-seating consistently ranks highest in customer service among other low-cost carriers.

The secret to Southwest's success (and near cult-like customer loyalty) lies in the fact that its brand personality is etched into every step of the customer's journey. From the messaging on its website to the advertisements posted along the walls of the jet bridge-and even though its in-flight publication, Southwest: The Magazine-the brand effortlessly uses storytelling brimming with feel-good stories and tales of employees who go above and beyond as a key element in its trust-centered marketing efforts.

Additionally, the brand is often cited as a model for excellent company culture-it's no wonder why flight attendants happily dance through the aisles when passing out those free drinks-and when your employees are happy, it speaks volumes about the quality of your brand.

But even people who don't fly Southwest are familiar with the brand's unique blend of empathy and panache, and that's thanks largely to its commitment to telling real stories.

In 2017, the brand launched a microsite,, which told a story for every one of the 175 seats on its standard Boeing 737 jets. The company also built a newsroom-style social media listening center in the heart of its Dallas headquarters, which was tasked with pumping the brand's news feeds full of relevant human interest stories, sharing quips on trending topics, and responding to customer questions and concerns as quickly as possible.

Southwest's commitment to putting passengers first is why the brand succeeds at building trust with consumers, year after year.

As marketers, the burden of developing customer confidence often falls on our shoulders. And it's challenging-especially in a time when buyers are increasingly skeptical of advertising. That's why it's so important to allocate resources to connect on an emotional level with your consumers through storytelling: It's a marketing strategy that will not only drive sales, but it'll help boost trust levels for your brand in the long run, too.

For more on how brands build trust-centered relationships with their audiences through exceptional content experiences, join our webinar on Bridging the Customer Trust Gap on March 7 at 1:00pm . Register here.

Featured image attribution: Digital Sennin


Carrie Dagenhard

Carrie is an Austin, TX-based freelance writer and B2B content strategist who combines a background in journalism and decade of marketing experience to help technology and healthcare organizations captivate their audiences. When she's not writing, you can find Carrie on her yoga mat, working her way through the ever-growing pile of books on her nightstand, planning her next travel adventure or sampling local craft brews. Learn more about her at