Building Brand Trust in a Fake News World

#FakeNews: bad. Bad for business, brands and customers. Bad for everyone. (#Bad.)

We said in our strategic themes for 2018 that customer trust needs to be a top priority for the year.  The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer is out and shows declining customer trust isn’t just a major issue; we are in a trust crisis. At best it reveals a world of stagnant distrust. In a lot of areas trust has simply crashed off a cliff. It’s a sorry state of affairs. (#Sad.)

Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.[1] In a world where consumers are trying to sort fact from fake news their relationships with institutions from government, media, big technology platforms and businesses are all being undermined.

If a state cannot survive without the confidence of its people, a brand cannot survive without the confidence of its customers. This is the challenge of our times, and for brands today.  “In losing the battle for trust, the biggest victim has been confidence in truth.[2]

The Edelman Trust Barometer is showing a pretty dismal picture for brand trust in 2018, here are the key findings:

1. The Loss of Confidence in Truth in Brands and Companies

In the context of the loss of confidence truth (59% of respondents saying they’re not sure what is true and what is not) 42% don’t know which companies or brands to trust. This loss of trust in businesses is critical for CEOs and CMOs to tackle in 2018. [3]

2. United States Trust Crash

No country saw steeper declines in trust than the United States, with a 37-point aggregate drop in trust across all institutions. Steve Schmidt: “This year’s shattering loss of trust in the United States represents a hinge moment in history” Trust in Government, NGOs and business all fell heavily. “No one is off the hook.”[4]

3. Falling Trust in Platforms

Google and Facebook track individuals’ online behaviour to tailor advertising based on those preferences. Data breaches are on the rise, along with concerns over election manipulation through targeted ads.[5] As a result trust in social media and search engines has reached a near six-year low, only 51% of all respondents trusting social media and search engines.  This represents a nose-dive off a cliff. In the UK only 36% trust in platforms such as social media feeds, search or news apps, a decline of 4 since last year. The US saw the steepest decline, down 11 to 42%.

4. Banking and Financial Services in Crisis

Some industries and institutions are also worse than others, with banking being in crisis.  Only 39% of customers trust their bank [6]

5. Brand Crisis Management

“Silence is now deeply dangerous – a tax on truth”[7]. The #NoComment approach has only undermined trust even more. In 2017 we saw a lot of brands who experienced data breaches, with the personal details of millions of consumers being compromised, the corporate cover-ups became headline news, Uber being arguably one of the most notorious. Last year it was reported that in late 2016 ride-sharing service giant Uber became aware of a data breach that potentially exposed the personal information of 57 million Uber users and drivers. However, the company chose to pay the perpetrators $100,000 to keep this enormous data breach a secret, instead of immediately alerting those affected by the breach.

6. Focus on Building Trust and Engagement

As building customer trust is a key strategic theme for 2018, it falls on Marketing to counteract #FakeNews. You’ll benefit from the most sought-after currency in marketing in 2018: Customer Trust. It’s not easy – trust is built over time. But, if you can deliver value to each and every customer every time you interact with them, you will build a trusted and engaged relationship. We dive deeper into how this is done in our next blog.

[1] Oxford English Dictionary

[2] Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 

[3] Source: 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. MED_CON. What consequences are you experiencing as a direct result of the media not doing a good job fulfilling its responsibilities? Question asked of those who answered codes 1-3 at MED_RSP. General population, 28-country global total

[4] Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 

[5] Source: 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. COM_MCL. When looking for general news and information, how much would you trust each type of source for general news and information? Please use a nine-point scale where one means that you “do not trust it at all” and nine means that you “trust it a great deal.” (Top 4 Box, Trust), question asked of half of the sample. MED_NEW_CSP. How do you normally get your news? (callout is net of codes 2, 5 and 7), question asked of half of the sample. General population, 28-country global total. Platforms is an average of search engines and social media

[6] EY

[7] 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer