The eighth annual Gustavson Brand Trust Index provides insight into what consumers look for in a company. The study is conducted by researchers at UVic’s Gustavson School of Business and is the only survey of its kind conducted by an academic institution.
They surveyed 9,189 Canadians in January of this year about 402 global and national brands and 10 regional brands in 33 categories.
They measure three different types which contribute to a brand’s overall trustworthiness and integrity: Brand Authenticity which relates to a brand’s social responsibility, Brand Ability which is how well a brand performs its main function and Brand Affinity which relates to the ways a brand interacts with its consumers. They also give brands an advocacy ranking which is how much consumers recommend the brand to others.
Key drivers in trusting a brand
“We’re looking at it from all these different angles,” says David Dunne, Director of MBA Programs and Professor of International Marketing & Service Innovation at the Gustavson School of Business. He is one of the researchers for the Brand Trust Index.
“We, as a school, believe that companies do well by doing good. If you look after your employees, look after the environment, the rewards for that are out there, and businesses are increasingly seeing it that way.”
The report is seeing it that way as well with a positive connection between a brand’s trust and its advocacy score. One of the biggest drivers of this trust in a business’s social responsibility is its treatment of employees. According to the Index, Costco, which gave their employees a permanent raise when the pandemic hero pay wave disappeared, is the leader in this area. Whereas companies like Uber and Amazon fall to the bottom.
Sometimes trust and advocacy don’t quite line up, like in the case of amazon whose practices are constantly under scrutiny but its market dominance often leaves little alternative.
“There are what we call transactional brands where people advocate them, but don’t necessarily trust them,” says Dunne.
Canada’s most trusted brands
But who were Canada’s most trusted brands overall? This year, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA/BCAA/CMA) took the top spot followed by Band-aid in second. These brands have held high positions in the rankings for years. Third place was a three-way tie between Costco, Lego and Home Hardware.
For the fifth year in a row, A&W ranked top in the Restaurants/Takeout category. The report suggests this positioning is due to actions such as the addition of the Beyond Meat burger to their menu, packaging innovations to reduce waste, and contributing to the community.
Declining trust in social media
Some larger trends are evident looking at the past few years of study. Since 2016, social media has been declining but this year marked an all-time low.
“They’ve all had a deep slide in trust,” says Dunne. “They’re scraping the bottom of these 402 brands.”
The very bottom brand is Meta, formerly Facebook.
Large technology brands such as Microsoft and Apple are also seeing downward trends, especially concerning data privacy. And traditional media outlets are continuing to take a hit.
Trust across different categories
The weather network was the most trusted media brand. Apparently, our trust in meteorologists’ ability to predict a chaotic system is greater than our trust in news outlets these days.
Grocery stores on the other hand rank very high in consumer trust.
Interestingly, trust doesn’t mean the same thing across categories.
“In the hotel industry, the big thing has always been relationships,” says Dunne. “So relationship trust has been a big deal for them. But, if you think about a company like Tesla, Tesla’s terrible on a whole lot of dimensions, but it does very, very well on innovation.” Consumers look for different things across different industries.
The Gustavson School of Business is hosting a Brand Trust Index Webinar on May 3rd from 10 – 11:30 a.m to further discuss the findings in their report. Guests will include Gustavson Dean Saul Klein as well as presidents and executives from several brands featured in the report.