Things were turbulent for marketing leaders and accelerated during Covid. The role of the CMO had become extremely volatile, with the average tenure reportedly being the shortest of all C-suite roles and major companies like Johnson & Johnson and Uber doing away with the position altogether.

Then, the pandemic came along and things got even more complicated. Budgets were slashed, major campaigns were delayed and canceled, and marketing leaders had to make one pivot after another to nimbly respond to evolving scenarios and consumer needs.

Despite all of this, the core job of all marketing leaders remains unchanged—they must understand, anticipate and deliver exactly what consumers want and need. And regardless of service or product, it’s imperative that customers trust your business and your brand, a truth that has been underscored by the extraordinary tumult and challenges of 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic, global economic crisis and ongoing turmoil over systemic racism and social injustice are changing the way consumers think, shop, spend and interact with brands. For one, consumers have never had more reasons to try out new brands and potentially make a switch. They’re coping with lost income and stricter budgets, and they’re online shopping more than ever. Many have also had a harder time accessing their usual preferred products, due to supply chain issues and social distancing requirements.

Widespread social upheaval is also leading more and more consumers to take an active interest in brands’ ethics and business practices. Those that don’t pass the sniff test are losing longtime customers to companies that take an authentic stand on societal issues.

These changes and trends are challenging but also pose opportunities for brands and marketing leaders.

Edelman has been studying trust for 20 years and our research shows that it’s never been more crucial for brands to build and earn it. Our Brand Trust in 2020 report found that in this environment, people want brands to play many roles, perhaps many more than was ever expected before: they want brands to address individual problems and needs, they want brands to step up and help solve societal problems, AND they want brands to enrich their personal lives. Brands are expected to do more and say more, and consumer trust has the power to make or break a business.

To build brand trust and be successful in the current climate, marketing leaders must be hyper-empathetic with consumers as they cope with financial struggles, health and safety concerns, social injustice, natural disasters and a host of other major crises and disruptions to their lives. The consumer journey has become more complex and sentiment changes daily, so it’s essential to use data and real-time analytics to tap into consumers’ ever-changing mindsets and quickly adapt strategies to meet their latest needs.

And while it’s all well and good to talk about the importance of building and earning trust, the path to doing so is different for every brand. To determine the way forward and tailor effective strategies for our clients, we developed Edelman Trust Management (ETM): Brand, a new suite of powerful analytical tools and advisory services that interpret and measure the power of trust to make it actionable and unlock its power to drive business success. We look at what you want to achieve for your brand right now, what persistent challenges it’s facing, and then determine how you can build stronger connections with consumers and best earn trust across the products and services you make.

Trusted brands are better equipped to navigate disruption, seize opportunities, engage and act responsibly, so finding your brand’s unique journey to building and earning consumer trust is critical to sustained success, even in the best of times. 2020 has delt one blow after another and the year isn’t over yet. Trust could very well be the lifeboat your brand needs to weather the storm.

Michele Anderson is U.S. Chair of Brand.