May 19, 20200 comments



According to Gallup’s ‘Confidence in Business’ tracker, the percentage of people in the UK who say they have confidence in major companies has been gradually declining since the early 1980s, and now stands at around 40%.

As someone who has spent over half her career working for big businesses, I believe that the vast majority of companies aim to do good and want to build trust and engagement with their customers. To do otherwise is just bad business.

So why do almost 2/3 of people distrust companies? And what do companies need to do to rebuild that trust?

In their 2019 report Trust: The Truth Ipsos Mori looked at the different factors that build trust, from leadership and reliability to behaving responsibly and sharing the values of their customers.

According to their report, in order to be considered trustworthy a company must:

  • be competent and reliable
  • avoid pure self-interest
  • have integrity and shared values

Ipsos Mori also compared results across countries and drew the following conclusion: you need to have a clear understanding of your specific cultural and market context to succeed at building trust.

Roughly translated? Understand your people and what’s important to them if you want to build trust. 

But trust alone is not enough. You also need to build an ongoing relationship – and loyalty –  to ensure that you keep that customer over the longer term. For example I bank with Natwest, they provide me with a reliable service and I trust them to manage my account.  In short – they’ve ticked the ‘trust’ box by doing the ‘day job’.  But, I could easily switch my account to another bank who would manage my account just as reliably as Natwest. And Natwest knows this.

According to Ipsos Mori, shared values are important to build trust but not as important as competence. When it comes to ‘relationship’ and ‘loyalty’: nothing outranks shared values.

In a research study conducted in 2012 by the Harvard Business Review, 64% of consumers who claim to have a ‘relationship’ with a brand cited shared values as the primary driver of that relationship.


Shared values build relationships


For NatWest that means having a more nuanced understanding of their customers (aka: me) in order to ensure their loyalty. So, for example, I love cricket (I mean REALLY love it!) AND diversity & inclusion are important to me – not only in sport but across the board. So, Natwest’s association with cricket and in particular their ‘Cricket has no boundaries’ campaign, is a key underpinning of my ongoing relationship with them.

Now I don’t think Natwest set out to specifically target me when it signed its sponsorship deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board or created the ‘Cricket has no boundaries’ campaign. But I do think that Natwest had a good understanding of the audience they wanted to build a relationship with – and they concluded, based on that understanding, that demonstrating that they value diversity & inclusion in sport (in particular cricket) was a good bet. In my case, they were right!

So, understanding your people: what’s important to them and what their values are is critical to building trust and ongoing loyalty.

One more thing. Your customers and their values change. All the time. And we are living through a clear example of that right now. COVID-19 has arguably created a consistent set of shared values across large swathes of the population. As a result of the pandemic, safety and security are now at the forefront of many people’s values. We also place a higher value on our health and care workers and the work being done to get life back to normal.

Many of the big brands understand this. They’ve updated their thinking about their consumers – and acted (and communicated) accordingly. For example:

Deliveroo and Uber Eats

Deliveroo and Uber Eats have both given free vouchers to NHS workers with an NHS email address.  This tapped into early concerns that exhausted staff were finishing long shifts only to find bare shop shelves.

Network Rail

Recognising concerns that key workers were risking their own safety by using crowded public transport to get to work, Network Rail made free parking available to key workers at 24 of its locations.

EDF energy

Adhering to the guidance on social distancing, EDF suspended its installation of smart meters and reassigned a number of its engineers to deliver medicines and prescriptions to vulnerable people across the UK.


Often in the firing line for the environmental impact of its operations, BP made its supercomputing capability available to the public-private consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers with access to the high-performance computing resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific research into COVID-19.


Like Network Rail, Nissan realised the safest mode of transport for key workers was by car, and introduced a free car loan scheme (with free car insurance) for NHS workers at a number of Nissan dealerships.

Events like Covid-19 that create an almost universal set of shared consumer values, are – thankfully – rare. But the need to truly understand your audience, their priorities and their values, is eternal and ongoing. Every marketing guru since the dawn of time has said this – and hopefully this article has given you some more evidence to support that assertion. So it always surprises me how few purpose-led entrepreneurs REALLY do the work necessary to understand their potential clients before they launch products and campaigns.

That’s why we are running the FREE four day ‘Getting to Know Them’ challenge starting on Monday 25 May in the pop-up Facebook group

We want to help you to ensure that you’ve done this crucial piece of work – and developed a deep deep understanding of your people so that you can build an ongoing relationship of trust with them.

We’d love you to join us. Just click the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/actuallychallenge/


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