Using Content to Build (or Rebuild) Consumer Trust in Brands

By Christine Warner on January 17, 2019

What does it mean to trust a brand?

Does it mean trust in the quality of a brand's products or services, how it uses and protects your personal data, the positive contribution it makes to society, confidence that its business practices reflect its values, all of the above...or something else entirely?

Unshakable consumer trust in brands is hard to quantify, but it's the highest achievement an organization can gain to benefit both its bottom line and brand reputation. The holy grail of business and branding, trust quickly matures into loyalty and advocacy.

PwC's 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey found that trust is one of the top factors influencing a consumer's choice to purchase from one retailer over another. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed ranked trust as one of their top three purchase influences. The PwC research found that trust gets personal, with over 40 percent of respondents saying they trust retailers to monitor their buying habits. They also expect brands to collect and use this data wisely.

Trust is all about experience, whether it's our personal experience with a brand or the experience of someone else we know and care about. And when that trust is lost, it's hard to get back. Analysis by Forrester shows that 18 percent of consumers will abandon a service if they distrust how it uses their data. With overall brand trust at an all-time low, 69 percent of CEOs are concerned with the impact of its decline. Similarly, Edelman's Trust Barometer report proved that globally, trust in media (which includes brands and marketing platforms) decreased from 2017 to 2018. Compared to other sources such as government or news, people want business leaders to take charge.

So how exactly can marketing leaders take charge to establish or rebuild trust? Content marketing is an effective approach, giving brands the ability to counter negative perceptions and attempt to redeem themselves after poor experiences.

Highlight Brand Values in Practice

Humility in marketing is a funny thing. On one hand, you don't want to appear advantageous by shouting your values, overselling your impact, or showing off every accomplishment. And on the other, you want to be sure to your brand values are clear and consistent.

building trust with your audience

Image attribution: Milan Popovic

It's possible to highlight your brand values in a way that will be received well, presenting your beliefs as naturally integrated with your company culture and business practices. Distinguish concrete ways to incorporate your values in your content strategy such as partnerships with established non-profits and charitable organizations.

One strong approach to build a natural connection between your brand purpose content marketing and your organization at large is by including the perspective of your corporate social responsibility team in your content. Collaboration between CSR teams and marketing departments create a company vision that tells value-based stories and highlights positive social initiatives such as environmental activism and sustainability.

Make Customer Service a Priority

In addition to creating content that serves the community, another way to build brand trust is through content that serves the needs of each individual customer. Bring customer service into your content strategy, if it isn't already. Again, trust is the result of experience. From the point of purchase to the search for support, make sure your customer support content is up to snuff and forefront of engagement efforts.

And if you're trying to come back from a dip in trust, focus on repairing those relationships through content. Develop content that specifically addresses their concerns or issues. Devote support team resources to high-touch service-either one-to-one or by segments. A trusted content experience is one that presents a unified message at every stage of the customer journey. From press releases, to FAQs, to how-to videos, all of your brand's content should fit within a larger connected ecosystem that encompasses the customer experience. Trust in this area contributes to greater brand loyalty and customer retention rates, keeping people happy and invested in your company's efforts for the long haul.

Use Content to Activate Advocates

Advocates are the best bet when it comes to developing consumer trust in brands and building trust with marketing. Leveraging the power of recommendations from real people goes a long way. And it doesn't have to be in-person or verbal recommendations.

91 percent of people read up to ten online reviews during their purchase process, and 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. So advocacy can be scaled digitally for maximum reach.To incentivize advocacy, referral programs are a solid option. As a customer engagement tactic, you can develop a content strategy solely around referrals. Offering appealing incentives and a simple process will work wonders for customer advocacy.

Don't Try to Be Perfect, Be Authentic

authentic brand stories

Image attribution: sergio souza

Authenticity extends to both content formats and messaging. Sometimes, more natural and less produced content resonates better than the most polished pieces and visuals. Avoid coming across as a cold, aloof corporation and show the human side of what you do. Showing the actual humans behind the operations is a great way to do this. It could be profiling employees or demonstrating the nuts and bolts with behind-the-scenes looks. Take authenticity to the details of copy with humorous, personal, or down-to-earth tones.

One venue where marketers need to pay particular attention to establishing trust is on social media. In the digital age, brands have more direct access to consumer data and behavior than ever. They need to use this information wisely to establish social media communities that feel safe and welcoming to audiences through actively responding to comments and feedback.

Many social media marketers are even going a step further to make their brand's social presence feel less scripted through the use of social storytelling. According to a 2018 report by TechCrunch the visual story format is growing 15 times faster than traditional feeds. The increasing popularity of storytelling represents an interest from consumers in observing and experiencing brands in real-time and feeling like they are taking part in the journey.

Communicate with Total Transparency

Whether it's your product ingredients, internal processes, manufacturing methods, or team structures, don't hold back. A culture of transparency will also help identify areas for improvements. If you don't feel comfortable publicizing something, should it be changed?

As your organization evolves, make announcements and communication about your business decisions that affect customers a non-negotiable. People are smart, and they'll see right through messaging that seems to cover up or sugarcoat the truth.

Trust should be a common goal of business, branding, and marketing. It takes all of them working together to tell a coherent and consistent story and deliver a positive experience with your products and services. And content can help fill the consumer trust gap.

Building trust with marketing is something every brand should strive for.

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Featured image attribution: Tanja Heffner


Christine Warner

Christine Warner is a freelance writer and digital marketer with agency, brand, and non-profit experience developing integrated campaigns and content platforms for diverse brands such as Uber, Samsung, Walgreens, Victoria’s Secret, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Dignity Health. Her digital marketing specialties include content marketing strategy, customer relationship management, brand product marketing, digital media planning, social media marketing, and search engine optimization. Currently, she is the Senior Manager of Digital for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where she oversees the digital marketing efforts for the various non-profit communities and ministries throughout Southern California. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to various lifestyle and marketing publications. You can check out her writing portfolio to browse all her work.