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In Brands We Trust: Essential Marketing for the Post-Pandemic Era

December 8, 2020
Woman looking out over mountains

Try if you’d like, but the topic of trust just isn’t going away. From political conversations, media opinions and all the way to brand trust we see consumers questioning who and what to trust more often and with greater nuance. The popular Netflix-released docudrama The Social Dilemma has recently brought this conversation into the sights of the general public, highlighting the (often questionable) validity of our social feeds and the motives behind them. In brief, the film examines the tremendous effects of communications being made by just a handful of social media and technology companies on a global scale and is especially concerned with the role of AI, and the algorithms that define it, in communicating sometimes-nefarious opinion as fact. This interrogation of digital marketing and media campaigns emphasizes the critical intersection of social media and that of the news media, instilling a sense of distrust of — or, worse, clouding the grasp on reality of — users who are unaware of its origin. Pairing this with the ongoing sense of high alert regarding health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and political unrest, it’s safe to say that trust is taking a front seat among consumers around the world for more than a little while longer. 

Given this, we’re actively looking at how crucial the element of trust is in today’s environment — and how research can help consumers and brands find stable footing for the road ahead. Here’s what we’ve found: 

Brand Trust & Behavior: The Elements of Loyalty 

This unpredictable year has disrupted consumer behavior like no other. Brands have had to keep up with ever-changing consumer sentiment and rapidly respond to the emergent emotional motivators driving purchasing behavior. And trust in brands in particular has come to the forefront in shopping choices — ranging from trust that a brand will be available and deliver on their stated brand promise to trust that the brand is handling the pandemic crisis in an acceptable manner. According to SHRM, “…how your company is treating its employees, customers and community during this critical time is defining what your brand really represents” and consumers are watching. Brand trust impacts purchasing loyalty as such and presents an opportunity to earn trust AND purchasing longevity at the same time. 

A great example: we recently looked at trust in terms of dining experience — here, restaurant goers were undergoing palpable levels of physical mistrust, in turn causing a decline in dining. Doing research to understand how to bolster brand trust is vital!

Government Trust (or Lack Thereof) 

Over the past few years our studies have shown a decrease in trust regarding claims or scientific facts backed by government organizations. And this also extends to consumers questioning the product regulations put in place by the government — we recently reviewed an article in Kaiser Health News in which they discuss how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a temporary guidance allowing food manufacturers to switch out “like” ingredients in some foods without a label change. While this lax regulatory response to supply chain shortages may be good news for some food manufacturers, this is a red flag-causing concern that decreased trust among consumers. Our tracking research shows that pre-pandemic, only 32% of primary shoppers agreed that they trust the U.S. food system. When regulatory laxity takes place for economic gain, trust is even further eroded. 

As noted in our recent white paper,“…because of the strong lack of trust, we will see surges in groups of people looking to non-government groups for answers — finding new groups and companies to trust. Providing an avenue for constructive conversation will lead to new insights and help to fuel … discovery.” This discovery can help you build the right messaging that can be communicated through trusted avenues. 

Claims and Transparency For the Win 

Brand products make a lot of claims but, in order to resonate with target consumers, they must be done right. Here at InsightsNow, we specialize in clean label research and claims is one area we’re especially keen to analyze closely for our clients. In fact, we have found consumer trust drives the development of clean label products with healthy claims. As trust wanes, consumers are demanding more transparency in every aspect of their lives and especially in what they and their families eat, wear, clean with, and allow contact with their home environments.  

What does this mean for product claims? Do your research! To best understand how to make claims that will truly resonate with your target audiences, you must identify the most trusted pathways to pursue toward validating those claims. 

An Industry Backed by Trust 

Reflecting this concept of trust back on ourselves, we also need to build and maintain trust in the research process during these times. But, with fresh insights needed now more than ever, how can we achieve what’s needed with all the restrictions in place? If you are a research agency your clients absolutely must be able to trust that you can perform the necessary research not only safely and securely, but with a special emphasis on the pressing health concerns we’re all facing. Having trouble coming up with a game plan? We can help.  

Pressing Forward 

Echoing the sentiments of the Sourcing Journal, as researchers we need to actively prepare for the post-pandemic consumer who, “puts a huge emphasis on trust [in a time when] trust and transparency have never been more important.” Brands, products and services must use consumer research to pivot and, at the same time, continue to pivot to reach new consumers at their distinct trust level. For a more in-depth look at this pivot point, check out our recent white paper, “What Has COVID-19 Taught Us About Consumer Behavior?” in which we look at ways to delve into trust in uncertain and disruptive times. 

The path toward a rich, trust-based consumer-brand relationship is a difficult but not insurmountable one — coupling predictive, consumer behavior insights that are based on their true motivators alongside the goal post of meeting your consumers on their own level is the only way forward. Remember: trust isn’t something to be inspired, but rather built over time and with an eye to the future. 

About the Author

InsightsNow, an award-winning behavioral research firm, partners with companies across a wide array of industry verticals to accelerate marketing, branding and product development decisions for disruptive innovations achieving a cleaner, healthier world. Insights are provided via custom solutions and assisted DIY tools based on proprietary behavioral frameworks to help find answers faster, improving your speed-to and success-in market.

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