The trust held in a brand is reinforced in every action, transaction, experience, emotion, memory and association it generates
By N Chandramouli
Trust is an integral part of any transaction, be it social or commercial. Brand Trust, or the trust held in a brand by consumers is a complex multi-dimensional entity, dependent on the attitudes and perceptions of the consumer that intermeshes with actions, offering and communication of the brand. The trust held in a brand is reinforced in every action, transaction, experience, emotion, memory and association it generates. And, the consumer evaluates all these aspects combining them into a single factor leading to a transaction (or not) called Brand Trust.
All businesses are founded on the premise of exchanging things of value. For any business to be successful, the buyer must see the exchange to have value at least commensurate to the price being asked. Depending on the outcomes of various forms of exchanges with the brand, this ‘perceived value’ is dynamically recalibrated in the consumer’s mind.
Brand Trust is the basis of all exchanges that stakeholders have with the brand. The act of trust involves a voluntary transfer of resources from the consumer – emotional, physical, financial and/or material – with no prior, immediately visible, tangible or quantifiable return from the brand. In the first step towards this trust-bond, the consumer accepts a degree of risk or vulnerability when dealing with the brand.
It must be evident by now that the real ‘perception-owner’ of a brand is the consumer. While most organisations and brands intrinsically know the consumer to be important, they do not put the consumer at the center of everything they do. Though many will disagree at first, a deeper dive will show that most organisations think organisation first, the consumer only after. Most marketing and sales team conversations revolve around sales, profits, market share, growth, among others. All organisation strategies, indubitably, are only brand centric, quite the opposite of the consumer-centric approach, which they obsessively and compulsively believe they exhibit.
One example of a brand’s true mindset comes from the expression they use often – customer loyalty – which, in most organisations, implies that the customer is expected to be loyal to the brand. Now imagine this, the customer – the one who pays, making conscious, judged decisions about the brand, a real person with a plethora of choices, and also all the information in the world at their fingertips, is the one who is supposed to be faithful to the brand. This omnipotent, omniscient customer is, inanely if I may say, expected to be ‘loyal’. Like a puppy perhaps.
Another term brands often use when talking about consumers is ‘share-of-wallet’, a term that describes the spoils garnered from clients as brands fight for the spending-power of the consumer. It seems to describe the lucre snatched by brands by luring customers to buy their share of product or services. The language demonstrates the mindset. Customers do not want to be trophies won in a market battle. Instead, they want brands to engage with them, understand them and build relationships with them. They definitely don’t want to be sold to. And the way they understand loyalty is when they see a brand display it towards them.
With so many challenges are there any simple solutions, you ask? The answer lies in consumer-centricity.
Consumer-centricity is not a brand campaign. It is not a plan. It cannot even be called a strategy. It has to be a way-of-life for a brand, a brand philosophy if you will. It may seem like a small change, but when you change the direction of the telescope you are looking through, the context changes entirely. A case not different from magnetic poles we know from school physics, that with such a shift of polarity, repulsion becomes attraction.
To build consumer-centricity, you have to pivot the entire organisational and brand strategy around the consumer. It is this that brings vision clarity. The solutions to any brand challenge are simple – if a brand starts and finishes every action a company takes with ‘How will it help the consumer?’.
The author is CEO, TRA Research