Do you trust me? 2011 top-brands reputation survey shows a change in why we trust brands.


Ask any marketer worth their salt to name their top three most important factors in a brand-consumer relationship and I bet my last Rashun “trust” will feature.

These same marketers might be interested (read: not all that surprised) to note that the latest reputation survey released from the states indicates that a brand’s “openness” and “ethical behavior” are more important now than they’ve been in previous years.

Brand and consumer interaction via social media networks has almost certainly been playing a role in this shift as, I guess, has the slowly mending global economy.

The annual study, conducted by global marketing giant Prophet, polls just under 5000 US consumers asking them to rank Fortune500 companies against different criteria.

It’s a piece of research that brand-geeks like me look forward to reading every year, not only because it’s nice to see whether people are feeling more warm and fuzzy about BP or Mobil this year, but also because it gives us an indication as to what factors consumers are considering when they decide a brand is “trustworthy” or not. It helps us design strategies for using tools like Facebook in a way that is actually going to resonate with consumers (read: sell stuff).

This year’s results are not that surprising: CPG and technology giants lead the pack with Kraft, Kellogg’s, Johnson&Johnson, General Mills and Sony making up the Top 5. It’s cool to note Nestle is still sitting in the Top 10 after a tough couple of years, proving that while social media tools are incredibly powerful for influencing reputation, they’re not the only powerful tool.

And just a note to the haters, I mean “cool” as in “interesting”, not as in “I support palm oil over-production and welcome your hate-mail”.

But as my mum would say, the really nutty bit of this research comes at the end where we see this graph:

According to this study (and its analysis, because us brand-geeks like to hedge our claims), there seems to be a subtle shift happening in what things consumers are considering when judging reputation and trustworthiness.

There’s a pretty clear skew towards personal relevance and pace-setter attributes in the 2010 drivers. These are generally factors that are related to how a brand is communicating – is it open and honest? Does it have an ethical standpoint? Is it relevant to me and does it share my values?

The 2009 drivers, by comparison, are largely product/service related – Do the products work? Are they reliable? Are they good value for money? Exactly what you’d expect from a marketplace mired in the doom and gloom of recession.

As economic optimism rises, people are beginning to look for trusting relationships with brands that offer a reliable product, sure, but that also ones that don’t betray their personal values.

This offers great opportunities for brands (and marketers) to use the entire communications arsenal at their disposal – social tools included – to make sure they’re letting their consumers know not only what they do, but also why they do it.


[Image Credit: Bradley’s Blog]

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...


    1. Hmsteemson Reply

      I’d say the equation went: transparency + being ethically aligned with me = trust. No point being transparent when your company is a douche.

      I DO agree on the awesomeness of the post.

  1. Eva Reply

    Trust for me is mainly based on brands that:
    * avoid food additives which are known to be harmful.
    * Give good quality with a great flavour
    * are affordable value for money.
    I get so fed up with the these things being absent that I have taken to making my own versions from scratch rather than compromising my families health and solvency.

    1. The Common Room Reply

      Thanks Eva,
      I think as the economy begins to recover (or at least, the public start to FEEL like the economy is beginning to recover), we’re going to see a lot more people making purchasing decisions that are driven by their ideals, as well as their wallets. Things like fair production standards (eg. free-range), wholesome or natural ingredients, premium taste and appearance, and locally grown have been set aside for a lot of people as house-hold budgets have grown tighter and tighter.
      As the market demands more ethical products, and our spend reflects our desire, manufacturers are sure to provide them.


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