Trust, Transparency And Meaningfulness: What Brands Need To Reconnect With Their Audiences

Currently, people around the world wouldn’t care if 74% of brands disappeared. This startling statistic hasn’t changed much in five years, according to Havas’ Meaningful Brands study -- the latest edition of which interviewed over 300,000 people across 34 markets.

It has not improved for good reason. The relationship between brands and people is broken. There are too many global brands that have consistently failed to remain meaningful in people's lives because they haven't addressed the evolving expectations of consumers.

Trust is a prerequisite for brands to deepen connections and be allowed to play a meaningful role in people's lives. Today, trust is weak, especially in markets like North America, where only 22% of brands are trusted. But how do you build trust with consumers for the long haul?  

In addition to delivering on the obvious functional benefits expected of brands, consumers are demanding that brands help to fulfill certain personal and collective attributes. We want brands to make our lives easier, improve our self-esteem and enable us to show off more to our peers.



We want brands that contribute to improving our communities and the environment, brands that are transparent and honest about their activities, brands that offer good workplaces, fair pay and conditions for suppliers and who are ethical.

When a brand can properly address these personal and collective expectations, then and only then can trust be re-established and consumers will begin to engage with brands for the long-term.

Currently, less than 28% of global brands are fulfilling our expectations around these collective and personal well-being factors. This presents a real opportunity for brands in every country to start to make a real difference by first understanding how audience trust can be reinstated.

In North America, consumers want peace of mind, transparency and ethical behavior from the brands they engage with.

Americans may not choose one brand over another based entirely on its ethics, but they do expect brands to have a positive impact on society through several collective factors: concerning themselves with environmental issues, ensuring that their activities benefit the economy, and even enabling consumers themselves to be more eco-friendly.

This is especially important for Millennials in the U.S., where brand attachment is harder to obtain. Nevertheless, once a brand can prove itself in these key areas, Millennials tend to be more loyal and more trusting of brands once they feel engaged.

In essence, a virtuous cycle of meaningful relationships between brands and consumers is defined. First, trust must be established through delivery on certain benefits that consumers expect, most notably personal and collective attributes.

Once brands make a positive impact on what matters to us, they are seen to contribute to our lives. This leads to better attachment to brands and deeper connections, which in turn helps to reinforce trust.

Editor’s note: Watch Maria Garrido’s keynote conversation with Editor-in-Chief Joe Mandese at MediaPost's recent "The Reckoning" conference in Washington, D.C.

2 comments about "Trust, Transparency And Meaningfulness: What Brands Need To Reconnect With Their Audiences".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 21, 2016 at 9:37 a.m.

    The real problem is that there has been an explosion of brand names for the consumer to "connect with", and this causes connection fragmentation, just as we see it with TV channels and programs where it's called rating fragmentation. In the good old days, a brand might be bought by 6-7% of the category's product users per buying occassion  but, over time, upwards of 25-30% of the category user base might come into contact with it, via sampling, price-off shopping, and other reasons. But that was when a typical product category had, say, 5-8 brands in the first place. Today, with "line extenders" and "flankers" as well as the influx of totally new brand names, the same product class may have 15-20 brands for the consumer---the product user---to "connect with". So, naturally, the average connection rate as well as the average brand's share of market, has declined. How does one change this? Brilliant brand positioning, great ad campaigns, refined targeting...perhaps? But that's a tall order for many "me too" brands, who have no real reason for being.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 21, 2016 at 11:09 a.m.

    Consumer likes and uses a particular product. It disappears off the shelves. Rinse and repeat. Plan B to become plan A.

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