As the world has become more and more connected, we’ve come to accept that consumer preferences driving global strategy often cross borders. But, when it comes to trust, it seems a U.S. college student has more in common with her mother than her counterpart in China.
The Edelman Trust Barometer has been reporting on trust in worldwide institutions for more than a decade. In the 2012 survey, we examine trust in four key institutions–media, NGOS, government and business–among both general consumers and informed publics in 25 countries.
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The study has found that institutional trust, and specifically trust in business, is dependent on any number of national and regional conditions. Across the globe, where a person lives is a stronger predictor of institutional trust than age, gender or other demographic characteristics.
This year, we are seeing trust in business at its lowest point in the EU as compared to other regions, particularly in countries that are at the heart of the Eurozone economic crisis. Looking more closely at this region, we see that there is little variance in trust between demographic groups. For example, when looking at trust across generations, we see that a 3-point trust difference between consumers aged 45-64 (38 percent) and consumers 65 and older (41 percent) is the most significant difference that exists. Trust levels among Millennials and Gen Xers in this region fall somewhere in the middle (40 percent and 39 percent, respectively).
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However, if we compare generations across regions, we see that a 17-point difference in trust levels exist between Millennials in Latin America and their counterparts in the EU and a 24-point difference exists between Gen X consumers in these two regions.
When looking at other consumer segments, like parents, trust in business in each region is significantly different than trust levels in all other regions.
This is not to say demographics are not impactful. But, it’s the social, cultural and economic climates at the country-level, rather than demographic differences, that are driving trust in major institutions, views on industries and impacting individual brands.
So, as global brands seek to develop strategies aimed at improving trust, they must be cognizant that levels of trust can vary depending on the region or country of their consumer. In this complex global consumer market, the belief that gaining the trust of a Mom in New York is the same as gaining the trust of a Mom in London is inherently dangerous for a brand. Instead, trust tends to follow national-level macro trends, making it necessary for brands to fully understand the Trust dynamics of geography in addition to demography.
Steve Lombardo is a corporate reputation strategist with Edelman in Washington D.C..