In 2021, the public is putting its faith in business. How will your brand respond?

In 2021, the public is putting its faith in business. How will your brand respond?


Philip Guiliano

Consumer trust is foundational part of any brand’s success. In fact, trust-building is at the heart of any brand-building effort.

Of course, your organization’s actions play a major role in your perceived trustworthiness. But the market’s willingness to trust your brand likely begins at a deeper level. You see, consumer trust in business as an institution fluctuates over time. And in 2021, with trust in the government, media, and NGOs all decreasing, much of the public views business as the most trustworthy institution.

A quick review of the past 12 months — complete with social unrest, a contested election, and cries of media bias, all against the backdrop of a global pandemic — makes it clear why business emerged as a safe haven in a sea of mistrust.

So, what does that mean for you and your brand?

Your audience wants to trust you. But it’s up to you to leverage the current goodwill into lasting trust. That could mean revisiting and refining your brand. Whether you reposition, commit to a full rebrand, or something in between, your goals are the same: Establish deeper ties with your audience, grow your market — and drive brand loyalty to a new level.

Consumer trust in 2021: business is up, other institutions are down

For 20 years, global communications firm Edelman has released an annual Trust Barometer. The Trust Barometer is a report tracking global trends in the public’s trust across four major institutions: business, media, government, and NGOs.

Of course, trust is crucial to the healthy functioning of all four of those institutions. And when it comes to business, Edelman correctly identifies trust as “the strongest insurance against competitive disruption, the antidote to consumer indifference, and the best path to continued growth.”

2021’s Trust Barometer documents the aftershocks of an especially turbulent year that sent global markets and communities reeling. Across the board, the public’s faith in government, media, and NGOs took a hit, while trust in business grew. Moreover, Edelman’s respondents rated business as the only institution that is both ethical and competent.

Increased trust equals increased opportunity for your business. But that doesn’t automatically mean smooth sailing. Trust may be up, but so are consumer expectations. Consumers expect brands to do more than just sell quality goods and services. They expect businesses to meet their fast-evolving needs, authentically inhabit progressive social values, and make good on brand promises. Remember: every branded touchpoint matters when building trust.

The combination of heightened trust and rising expectations means the time is ripe for many businesses to revisit and refine their brands. Depending on your unique situation, that may mean anything from polishing your messaging or refreshing your brand identity to rebranding altogether.

Leveraging the business trust advantage: opportunities (and risks) for your brand

The rising tide of consumer trust in business as an institution means vital new opportunities for your brand. Here’s how to seize the day — without falling prey to the attendant risks that lurk beneath the surface.


Wear your values on your sleeve

In 2021, consumers are primed to view business as ethically responsible. They expect brands like yours to understand the most pressing societal and environmental concerns of the moment — and do something about them. Many businesses are already repositioning themselves with those expectations in mind. More and more, brands are demonstrating their values by aligning with social and environmental causes.

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to consider how best to highlight and amplify the authentic values to which your brand is committed. But whatever you do, make sure your social and environmental commitments aren’t just window dressing. If you fail to follow through on your claims, today’s consumers will sniff it out. And they may not be inclined to give you a second chance.

Align with shifting consumer needs

What do your customers most need from you today versus twelve months ago? In many cases it’s more sea change than subtle shift. This unprecedented era has already fundamentally altered consumers’ needs, perceptions, values, and expectations.

Whether or not you’ve already evolved your offerings in response to your market’s changing needs, you now have a major opportunity to reposition or expand your brand to reflect what the market now wants and needs.

For example, a forward-thinking healthcare provider might acquire or partner with a technology company to help deliver a range of new services, including telehealth, research and analytics, and even health and wellness. A brick-and-mortar fitness business may decide to implement a hybrid physical/digital model on a permanent basis. Play it right, and the rising tide of trust will carry you forward as you pivot and expand into new markets.

Communicate a larger value proposition

Now more than ever consumers are open to hearing about how your brand is bigger than the sum of its parts. You have your customer’s ear, but you need to keep it simple. The bottom line? You must find a way to clearly communicate your brand’s larger value proposition. To do that, you may need to do anything from adjusting your messaging to consolidating your brand architecture.

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Being seen as inauthentic

Today’s consumers are in charge — and they aren’t afraid to speak their mind. They may trust business more than other institutions, but that doesn’t mean they are blindly loyal to your (or any other) brand. Put simply, consumers want to trust your brand, but you still need to earn it with each and every interaction.

As a result, brands are generally exercising more caution than they have in the past. Consider Jeep’s Superbowl commercial with Bruce Springsteen. As soon as news of the rockstar’s possible DUI surfaced, they pulled the ad altogether. (After more facts emerged, Jeep reloaded the ad.)

Tighter budgets

Tighter marketing budgets mean you’ll need to get creative when it comes to optimizing your brand. Current trends are sure to drive a massive wave of brand change. But whether that looks like new messaging or an all-new brand identity is a question for each company to consider.

It’s possible to reposition your brand even within the confines of a slashed budget. In some cases, messaging and content alone can go a long way in shifting your brand’s positioning. Other times, only a more significant brand evolution will do. The good news? With the right strategy and intentional scenario planning, you can put together a brand refresh or rebrand that fits your financial needs — and captures money-saving efficiencies in the process.

Consumer sentiment is always in flux, but in the current climate your audience is more inclined than usual to give your brand the benefit of the doubt. By taking advantage of the unique opportunities presented by this trend, you can show your customers just how trustworthy you really are.

Want to learn how other companies have responded to public sentiment through brand change and emerged with a stronger, more consistent brand? With the right brand implementation partner  a seamless rebrand is within reach.