Strategy Session: Do Customers Trust Your Brand?

Strategy Session: Do Customers Trust Your Brand?


A very interesting study recently came across my e-mail. The headline read “Most Trusted Brands 2020.” The article went on to rank those brands that were named after this question was asked: How much do you trust each brand to do what is right?

The study was delivered by Morning Consult, a market research company. The results are based “on the largest study of its kind to date, with an average of 16,700 interviews per brand for nearly 2,000 brands,” the company announced. In addition, the report is powered by Brand Intelligence, relied on by a wide range of Fortune 500 companies to understand consumer perceptions and transform that knowledge into a competitive advantage.

The headline sparked my interest because of what is happening in our country today. It seems that as negative political discourse becomes more prevalent, trust has become a questionable trait, especially as it relates to the media.

Having a trusted brand is now something not only to strive for but also not to be taken for granted. Moreover, for retailers and manufacturers in our industry, “trust” is something to own and cherish as a brand. Ultimately, trust might be an important point of difference among your competitors.

I was also very interested to understand what trust means to younger generations, such as generation Z (generally those born between 1995 and 2015). The report was able to make some important distinctions among that group. For example, the study stated: “Younger consumers are generally more skeptical of corporate America and hold higher ethical standards for brands.”

Trust in Big Tech Dips

Furthermore, in a January 12, 2020 New York Times article titled “Techlash Hits College Campuses,” Emma Goldberg writes: “College seniors and recent graduates looking for jobs that are both principled and high-paying are doing so in a world that has soured on Big Tech. The positive perceptions of Google, Facebook and other large tech firms are crumbling. Many students still see employment in tech as a ticket to prosperity, but for job seekers who can afford to be choosy, there is a growing sentiment that Silicon Valley’s most lucrative positions aren’t worth the ethical quandaries.”

The Morning Consult study also concluded that younger Americans are more distrusting of brands across the board. For gen Z, the average brand trust rating was +10, compared to +21 for boomers. Reliability is the foundation of any brand.

Most-Trusted Companies

Now for the results. Before you read ahead, close your eyes and think about what companies you would list as your top 10 most trusted brands (don’t peek!).

Among all consumers, the “trusted” list goes like this:

1.USPS-logo2.Amazon-Logo3.Google-Logo4. PayPal_logo5.



Hersheys-Logo8.UPS-Logo9.Cheerios_logo10.MandMs-LogoSo, of the top 10 brands, two are delivery companies, two are chocolate snacks and one predicts the weather. As I perused the list, I surmised that delivery companies gain your trust by doing what they do best. In addition, as more and more consumers are shopping (and returning) online, these companies are apparently delivering on their brand promise—get the package to the person on time and give the consumer the ability to track where the package is.

Brands Generation Z Consumers Trust

The study also broke out generation Z and asked the same question. Once again, close your eyes and take a guess.

Generation Z’s most-trusted brands include:



Netflix-logo3.Amazon-Logo4.YouTube-Logo5.PlayStation-Logo6.Target-Logo7.Nike-Logo8.Colgate-Logo9. (Again!) Chick-fil-A-Logo-Update10.Gatorade_logoIn case you’re interested, the U.S. Postal Service came in at 12 and UPS did not make the top 25.

Another factor I found most interesting was that Apple, long known as a trusted brand, did not make the top 25 in the first list, and it came in at 14 on the gen Z list. Also of note, there were not a lot of CE companies listed in the top 25 of either grouping. Moreover, Target (6) and Walmart (13) were listed in the gen Z list.

So why is all of this relevant? Because “trust” and “doing the right thing” is becoming more and more important to consumers, especially among younger consumers. The backlash on companies like Facebook suggests that priorities are changing; attributes like “giving back” and “reliability” are becoming priorities. What’s more, to a new generation of consumers, trust is not necessarily a given—it has to be earned (see chart). This is a generational change where trust used to be assumed.

Source: The State of Consumer Trust: Morning Consult’s Most Trusted Brands 2020
Reliability Is the Key

Morning Consult’s executive summary concluded that “reliability is the foundation of brand trust.”

• Issues relating to reliability are more important to developing consumer trust than any others, while issues relating to ethics and politics tend to rate lower.
• Gen Z and millennials hold brands to a higher standard; young Americans are generally more skeptical of brands and put greater emphasis on ethics.
• A review of what explains the exemplary trust ratings for PayPal and USPS found that reliability was the key driver in both cases.
• While most Americans trust brands to deliver on the basics, far fewer trust them to go above and beyond. This provides brands certain opportunities to win over trust by championing issues that are perceived to be important by customers.

Subsequently, as an industry, we should take a long look at how we rate on the “reliability” and “ethics” scales. We should see this as an opportunity to go out of our way to deliver on those two attributes to improve our standings in the world—and to invite our next generation of customers to appreciate what we do.