Building Brand Trust: A Proven Framework for Enhancing Customer Loyalty and Brand Integrity

TRUST spelled in Scrabble tiles

Several years ago, I developed a journey mapping methodology, which helps organizations get an objective view of how their customers, partners, and employees view their company and brand. Since then, I’ve led teams that have conducted thousands of interviews across different business models from business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C), across different industries.

What I’ve found, repeatedly through these studies, is the importance of trust. Research has shown a strong positive relationship between brand trust and brand loyalty (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001), along with competitive and economic benefits to companies:

  • Less vulnerability to competitive marketing actions
  • Reduced marketing costs
  • Higher rates of return on investment through increases in market shares
  • Better cooperation with intermediaries
  • Favorable word of mouth
  • Greater extension opportunities

While there’s broad scientific agreement about the positive correlation between brand trust and brand loyalty, the definition of trust shows some variability. A meta analysis of the definitions of trust in scientific literature provided me with the definition I use for the Brand Trust framework:

Trust is a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another.

-Rousseau, D., Sitkin, S., Burt, R., & Camerer, C (1998)

The framework for the elements of trust was built from a hybrid of identified elements from a number of researchers (Chipchase, 2013; Andaleeb, 1992; Frost, Stimpson, and Maughan, 1978; Ganesan, 1994, Hoy, W. K. & Tschannen- Moran, M. (1999), Delgado J Ballester and Munuera J Aleman, 2005; coupled with the specific nuances from my own research.

ELEMENTS OF BRAND TRUST

  • Empathy: The brand recognizes the pain, joy or other emotions they are creating and shares in those feelings
  • Authenticity: The brand is behaving with qualities consistent with customer expectations of that brand
  • Integrity: The brand knows the right thing to do and does it
  • Reliability: The brand comes through when you need it
  • Value: The brand is perceived to make a fair exchange for their goods or services

As a starting point, this framework makes a great rubric for new products and services, communications, policies, etc. Grab that thing you’re doing, or that thing you’re going to do and ask yourself and your team:

Is this empathetic, does this thing show that we are sharing in the emotions we are creating?

Is this authentic, does this thing we’re doing feel consistent with other things we’ve done?

Are we showing integrity, this thing we’re doing, is it the right thing to do?

Is what we’re doing reliable, if our customers, partners or employees need us right now, is this what they need?

Is this valuable, someone is going to have to invest time, money or energy into this (maybe all three), is that a fair trade for what we’re offering?

If you answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, you’re building trust with your audience. If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, you’re eroding trust with the people that you most need to trust you. With Rutabaga, we’re seeking to answer these questions everyday, with an emphatic YES! knowing it will lead to long-term brand trust and the relationships, value and growth that come along with that trust.

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