Last week, we highlighted the substantial erosion in trust in institutions happening in America. It is a wake-up call across the board, but particularly for brands given their bottom-two placement on the trust spectrum (see more in our previous article).

In the face of this erosion in trust, brands need to be asking themselves: Am I trusted by consumers? And how robust and resilient is that trust in times like these?

Within the S+R American Pulse, we asked consumers to tell us about a brand they trust and how this brand has earned their trust. Consumer’s response to this question holds invaluable insight for brands right now.

Regardless of the specific brands cited, the reasons WHY brands were trusted fell into four major themes shown below:

The left, Brand Experience side, represents the core of earning consumer trust. Well over half of the mentions fell into this brand-focused side. For example, Amazon was a top mention. Amazon has earned trust first and foremost by 1) consistently delivering on customer expectations (e.g., promised 2 days shipping, and delivered in two days) and then also by 2) making it right when things went wrong (e.g., painlessly replaced a missing delivery).

Yet, we were most intrigued by the stories on the right side of the matrix. While these were much more varied in the brand discussed, we could feel the greater emotion in these responses and deeper bond discussed. In these cases, it has become personal. For example, brands were resolving issues in particularly stressful moments, “I trust Allstate, my home and auto insurance company. My wife was involved in an accident and Allstate was right there for us.” “I trust my bank Fifth Third…they have helped me out of scams.” Or even a personal take on preventing issues, “Google has been putting extra effort to inform me on my rights and online security and vulnerability.” These brands that earned trust acted in ways that demonstrated their values while deepening the personal bond with their customers.

This insight underscores what we’ve long known at Shapiro+Raj. For 20 years, the S+R Relationship Monitor™ has guided clients on their transactional to relational journey. Helping them go from a very basic relationship to creating deeply devoted customers.

For years, we’ve preached consistency as critical to building trust. Yet, we recognize a level of bond between consumer and brand that is even a step beyond a trusted relationship – one that is truly devoted. This deep relationship is built on shared values, and it’s inherently deeply personal. Brands that build this bond go beyond meeting (or even exceeding) consumer expectations and go to connect on critical values.

This is what this more personal side of the responses is all about – a brand that understands and shares my values so closely that they can keep me from trouble or know how to help me out when I’m in a jam.

This doesn’t mean your brand has to save lives or change the world – rather it’s simply about deeply understanding what your customer values, and how your brand helps them attain that. A brand demonstrates shared values by recognizing exactly what the customer needs and how they want to solve (or avoid) problems. A deeper bond is formed as the brand does more than meet expectations; it begins to demonstrate the alignment between consumer and brand values.

So, what does this all mean for brands, particularly as consumers question their trust in brands to do the right thing?

First, earn trust with consistency:

  • Consistently meet consumer expectations – this sounds simple but isn’t always. Keep your promises; even when it’s not easy, and even when it’s expensive.

  • When that consistency is breached (whether it is your brand’s fault or not), exceed the customers’ expectations in making it right.

Yet, to deepen the bond, get personal:

  • Solve real problems in their real life. This starts with building deep empathy for your customers – understanding not just how or why they use your brand, but how it intersects with their lives and values.

  • Only with these deep human insights will you be empowered to deliver personal, shared-values-based experiences that builds a bond.

We’d love to help you uncover deep consumer insights and inspire activation ideas that will allow you to truly bond and future-proof your brand in the face of eroding consumer trust. To get in touch reach out to