Global Practices

Earning Consumer Trust



Only 14 percent of the global population trust business a great deal. Just slightly over one in 10 people. This sobering fact, from the 13th annual Edelman Trust Barometer, should startle every consumer product marketer.

Companies who manufacture and market consumer goods fare a bit better than business as a whole – with consumer electronics (70 percent), the automotive sector (66 percent), food and beverage (62 percent), CPG (60 percent) and telecom (60 percent) leading the way. Conventional wisdom advocates that brand trust for consumer goods is rooted in product quality and innovation. While these two attributes remain paramount, they are just two of sixteen attributes that drive brand trust.

These sixteen trust attributes extend across engagement, integrity, products and services, purpose and operations. While the most successful marketers have long placed quality and innovation (products) at the center of their operations, increasingly leading brands have recognized and addressed the competitive reward of listening to customer needs and feedback (engagement), taking responsible actions to address an issue or crisis (integrity) and creating programs that positively impact the local community (purpose).

This is a fine start, but incomplete. Brands that pivot toward a more comprehensive suite of trust attributes will be rewarded with greater consumer loyalty. Here are three important places to start:

Share Your Values

Most companies equate positive employee experience with business performance and invest significant resources in their employees’ well-being. But, too few companies share this commitment outside their organization. Consumers want to know who’s making their products and how they are treated by employers (engagement). Smart companies will oblige by making access to information about employment practices transparent and accessible through owned and social media channels.

Share Responsibility

Consumer goods manufacturers have rightly assessed and seriously addressed their environmental stewardship mandate, but according to a World Economic Forum report too few consumers believe companies’ sustainability claims and too many people find it too difficult to make the environmentally responsible choice about products. Companies need to be radically transparent in their environmental claims and help consumers understand how their own behaviors impact climate change.

Embrace Shared Influence

Traditionally influence has cascaded from business leaders, academics and other experts. Today, this pyramid of authority is mirrored by a pyramid of community, where social activists, action consumers and employees have equal influence on the general population. Companies serious about building trust will embrace these new communities of influence by giving them unprecedented access and voice.

The consumer products and services industry is the most creative and innovative in the world. It has led other industries in re-examining business process and customer engagement. It’s time to lead in the rebuilding of consumer trust.

​Jennifer Cohan is global practice chair, Consumer Marketing.

Image by Garry Knight.

  • 14 per cent is just slightly over one in seven people…

  • Very interesting and important study not only for C suite leaders but also local field faces of companies aka Salespeople, Key Account Mangers and the like

    Hugh Alford – fruits of success blog

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