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]