Building Trust in Brands


BY JO PEARCE, Associate Consultant at SaturnFive

 Within the hot, feverish world of marketing trust has always been talked about as the holy grail of building successful brands.

Whether looking at functional performance of a product or more emotional benefits such as shared value association, social status reinforcement, or community membership, a brand simply had to deliver on its promises made.

Nothing has changed. In fact, in the interconnected, live, 24/7 world that we live in, the perceived ability to trust remains the gold standard in terms of deciding which brands, products and services we pledge our various allegiances towards.

However, what has changed in this always-on world, is the speed at which a default on expectations is detected and the alarming clarity and precision of global public scrutiny that results in a subsequent loss of faith.

Loss of trust in a brand can occur from one monumental mistake, or more insidiously, through a drip effect of not quite living up to expectations over days, weeks, or years.

We don’t have to look far for examples….

Of course, we all know that mistakes can happen; bad calls can be made by inexperienced or unprincipled brand guardians. Sometimes, situations that occur which are out of a brand’s control, are not dealt with optimally in the heat of the moment.
A big contributor to this happening is the mismanagement of the brand. Too often this happens when the brand has lost its way in terms of staying true to its founding philosophy and principles, losing sight of its roots and foundations.

This was highlighted earlier this year when the Chief Executive of Unilever, Alan Jope, spoke out about the practice of “woke-washing”; the use of language and imagery of worthy causes to increase the profit made by companies without backing up their words with actual action. He said that the companies and brands that hijack popular causes, that try and appropriate another’s purpose and did not “walk the talk”, would “further destroy trust in our industry, when it’s already in short supply”.

At SaturnFive this is something that we address with clients up-front to ensure that their brands are fit for purpose. We employ a mixture of techniques and methodologies, working with existing data in addition to generating our own content, often through stakeholder interviews, simulated consumer experience and workshops.

A brand must know who and what it is and what it promises to its desired consumer. It needs a crystal clear articulation of its philosophy, vision, mission, principles, values, personality and personal code of conduct. It must state how it intends to behave and then adhere to those stated intentions. Its proposition should be clear, transparent and honest, however ambitious it might be.

Without these basic foundations, no brand is given the opportunity to succeed to the best of its abilities. There is no point on jumping on the latest bandwagon, or trying to appropriate fashionable or trending issues, such as mental health, single use plastic, or the latest gender rhetoric if this has nothing to do with your own philosophy and reason for being as a brand, a company, or a service. Not only is it incredibly short-sighted in outlook and strategic intent, but the consumer will see through it. A brand’s claimed beliefs must stand up to scrutiny as evidence of its own moral code, both externally and internally in the organisation.

If you don’t know who you are, where you come from and what you intend to do, without “walking the talk” you can’t expect people to trust you to deliver, or come along with you on the journey – those who work for you, work with you, or your desired consumer.


Jo Pearce is senior Associate Consultant at SaturnFive specialising in brand and communications strategy. For a discussion about how we can help build your brand for the 21st century contact her on

SaturnFive Consulting works with organisations to develop and implement their strategy so that they are well placed to exploit the benefits of a changing marketplace in a fast moving world.

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