• Adam Morris


Updated: Dec 22, 2018

A fundamental aspect of any positive relationship, trust plays a key role in life. As people do business with people, consumers gravitate towards brands that share the same qualities they look for in people: honesty, integrity, and trust to name a few. It can take years or decades for a brand to establish trust with its consumers (much like reputation). Once established, brand loyalty and affinity becomes much more attainable for the respective company.

A Brand's Promise

An effective way for a brand to earn its consumers' trust is to make a promise and continually deliver it, regardless of variables such as time of day or location. For example:

  • McDonald's promises its Big Mac will taste the same in Switzerland as it does in New York City.

  • Apple promises a Genius will be there to help you, regardless of the Apple store you're in.

  • Starbucks promises that your special drink will be made just for you; they'll even write your name on the cup.

These are a few of the world's most trusted brands, because for years they've promised a certain level of standards; what should be expected. On the contrary, trust is like reputation: it takes years to build, but can be jeopardized in minutes. All it takes is a few cases of poor customer experience or a breach of the company's promise for word to spread and public trust to be diminished. Food companies especially must be careful, as thousands of employees handle their food and hospitality every day.


Brands that aren't as global, established, and well-known as McDonald's, Apple, and Starbucks face a certain "chicken and egg" problem:

"How do we establish trust with our consumers if we have no proof that we can be trusted?"

While easier said than done, a brand must demonstrate that it can be trusted. Trust needs to be earned, and a brand must spend significant time, energy, and money to do so.

An initial strategy for a brand to earn trust might be to offer a guarantee. Perhaps a pizza place offers delivery in thirty minutes guaranteed or it's free. From the consumer's perspective, they will either receive their pizza in a timely manner, and be satisfied; if not, the consumer won't be happy with their late food but will be happy with it being free. It's a win-win proposition: the consumer is conditioned to expect either fast food or free food. A company that works hard to deliver on time, and if not, then cover the bill themselves is one that can be trusted.

Peace of Mind

It's hard to put a price on a good night's sleep or stress-free life, but people will pay for it. Brands can provide peace of mind through product warranties or return policies.

Apple, for instance, provides AppleCare at an additional fee. While its products may be built to last, technology inevitably has its hiccups. AppleCare provides peace of mind that if anything goes awry, the consumer can simply bring in their product, state their case, and have their product fixed. Their continual buy-in to AppleCare covers the fee, and be thought of as Apple's insurance plan.

Marshalls (the department store) typically offers returns and refunds within just 10 days. Beyond 10 days, a Marshalls gift card will be given. Relatively-speaking, 10 days is not a lot of time. What Marshalls does leading up to the holidays is offer a much more generous grace period. Purchases made in November can be refunded or exchanged as late as January of the following year. With the busyness and rush of the holiday season, Marshalls offers peace of mind. If the recipient of a gift from Marshalls wants to exchange it, they may do so in a time frame more generous than its typical 10-day rule.

Customers don't always choose the option with the most perceived value (value relative to price) or the option with the lowest price. The selected option is often the one with the least amount of risk. The option with the least amount of risk is typically the brand that the consumer trusts the most. Brand promises, guarantees, warranties, and return policies are a few methods that brands can use to build a trusting relationship with its consumers, in an effort to foster brand loyalty and price premiums. ▲

You can also watch the "How Brand Drives Demand" speech by Adam Morris.


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