At a recent CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia) event Matthew Harrington, Global President of Edelman, presented findings from new research that’s required reading for anyone with an interest in how consumer expectations of brands are evolving.
To start, a bit of a confession.
I look forward to the Edelman Trust Barometer coming out each year. I mean really, like diary reminder really. In the same way I’ve always looked forward to the Mackay Report on social trends - that uniquely Australian view of what we’re thinking and how we’re feeling about all sorts of things.
Edelman’s Trust Barometer is unique also - not only does it give an objective view of how Australians feel towards different types of institutions, as a longitudinal study it represents nearly 20 years of understanding how attitudes, sentiment and trust are shifting. It also covers 27 other countries so we can compare and contrast, and in multicultural society like Australia that’s invaluable.
The Trust Barometer is centred on how much people trust types of institutions - business, government, media, NGOs. These aren’t typically institutions that people feel they have a huge deal of agency about in their choices. Banks are banks, government is government. People often describe their choices as being from the “best of a bad lot”.
We have to entrust our savings and super to financial institutions, we have to entrust aged care operators to look after parents, loved ones, when we can’t. We trust service providers to care for people with disability and we trusted many types of institutions with the welfare of children and young people.
And we have four royal commissions. These institutions, many of whom we didn’t really choose, were meant to do the right thing.
So what about the “brands” we do choose as consumers? The things we want, the things we choose because they signal to others what we’re about. Do we trust these brands to do the right thing? Does it really matter - if the product is good, if the customer experience is great?
The Patagonia puffer jacket we wear, the Tesla or Toyota Hybrid in our driveway, the KeepCup or stainless-steel straw we carry around. The Apple kit because ‘design’ matters to me. Do I care if the CEO of the airline I choose to fly with is outspoken on social issues, or, in contrast, are reported in news media as being a sharp operator, cutting jobs to make fares competitive?
What about the digital platforms that have become so central to how we engage and communicate? A quick poll of a few friends points to these being seen as fitting in two broad categories:
- 1. Incompetent and useless (they’ll probably let Ukrainians steal my deets).
- 2. Highly competent. but manipulative and deceitful (they’ll probably sell my deets and let Ukrainians post stuff in my feed).
Real question in all this is: Can I trust this brand to do the right thing?
That question lies at the heart of evolving consumer expectations and is the subject of a new Trust Barometer research report by Edelman - In Brands we Trust?
It’s worth a read. Trust me.