The Erosion Of Trust And What It Means For Brands

There is no escaping the term “fake news” these days. All you have to do is scroll through your news feed and the term appears on a regular basis. This, coupled with some of the scandals that have been plaguing corporations recently such as Volkswagen faking emissions tests and the makers of the EpiPen increasing its cost by 400%, has had an impact on consumer trust. And it isn’t a positive one.

To better understand how significant the trust deficit really is and what has been causing trust to decline so rapidly in recent years, we embarked on a study with over 2,000 women across the United States.

The findings of the study, fielded earlier this month, indicate that the explosion of what is perceived to be “fake news” has made women even more skeptical about what they read and hear. As one respondent put it, “News has become more like entertainment than information in recent years.”



The study found that trust in the news has declined over the last year:

  • Over 50% of women surveyed have less trust in what they hear and see in the news vs. a year ago
  • Only a third of women say that their trust levels have stayed the same over the past year

Among the causes of this decline in trust are the following:

    • Prevalence of fake news (79%)
    • Political bias (81%)
    • Inadequate fact checking (81%)
    • Focus on money vs. truth (75%)
  • Local news channels are the only news sources that are trusted by at least half of women.

Bad News for Brands: 

The news is not much better for brands. According to the study, only 39% of women trust brands to live up to their promises. When it comes to the advertising that is used to communicate those promises, the trust level dips dramatically down to only 20%.

Women Trust Soup Brands More Than They Trust Healthcare Companies:

When asked about which industries are the most trustworthy, none were seen as being worthy of full trust. Some industries faired better than others. Sixty-one percent of women trust packaged goods companies vs. less than 50% who somewhat trust healthcare companies.
Here is the full list ranking from highest trust to lowest:

#1 Not-for-Profit

#2 Packaged Goods (groceries, household items, apparel)

#3 Beauty/Personal Care (tied for 3rd

#3 Pet Care (tied for 3rd)

#4 Healthcare (tied for 4th)

#4 Technology (tied for 4th)

#5 Financial services (tied for 5th)

#5 Automotive (tied for 5th)

Good News for Brands:

What helps to keep brands honest and trustworthy? Eighty-eight percent of women think that it is the fact that companies can’t get away with as much as they would like to because of social media enabling people to talk about brands and companies online.

The ability to go online and talk about a bad customer service experience gives women a sense of reassurance that brands have to behave in a trustworthy fashion most of the time. 

The good news is that there seem to be some clear opportunities for brands to have a positive impact on trust. 

6 Ways in Which Brands Can Address the Trust Deficit Among Women:

  • Treat employees well (66%)
  • Produce quality products/use quality ingredients (71%)
  • Provide good customer service (74%)
  • Prove they live up to their promises (73%)
  • Are transparent about their products and business practices (63%)
  • Listen to customer’s points of view (53%)

It seems that rise of social media is providing consumers with a seat at the table to have a voice and influence brands. Interestingly, this new social dialogue can be an asset for smart brands as it is a source for product feedback in addition to helping build trust with consumers.

Are you surprised by any of the study findings? Comment below or tweet me @shespeaking.

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