By: Dr. David Bridwell, People Scientist 

Trust is one of many metrics that marketers use when evaluating the consumer’s perception of their brands, but does trust actually make an impact on business results? Should marketers focus on building trust in their campaigns or could their efforts be better spent?

When turning to these questions, we have to confront the big elephant in the room called Facebook (and its parent company, now called Meta). The continued presence and growth of Facebook should put serious doubts into marketers’ minds about the importance of trust, since the company has continued to exist and has even grown in the presence of strong consumer distrust. 

Mark Ritson pointed out this discrepancy in a recent article in Marketing Week. The article presents some data that shows a huge drop in public trust of Facebook from 79% to 27% around the time of the Cambridge Analytica scandal (2018). However, while public trust in Facebook plummeted, the number of total users showed a steady increase. These results suggest that trust has less of an impact than marketers think.

There are many reasons that this discrepancy might occur, but there’s also plenty of additional data out there that helps put brand trust into question. This perspective is perhaps best illustrated by Les Binet’s response on Twitter to the Marketing Week article. He wrote that “of all the brand metrics that advertisers commonly track, ‘trust’ is the one that is LEAST correlated with business success. Campaigns that focus on improving trust tend to underperform.” Those are some powerful words coming from a leading marketing econometrician. 

The relationship between “brand trust” and business success seems pretty complicated. On one hand, our intuition tells us that trust is important, but on the other hand, the data doesn’t pan out like we would expect. There are a couple points of clarification here, though. The first is that while brand trust is not a good objective for a campaign, it’s possible that brand trust could develop through other means or other messaging objectives. In other words, it could be that “trust” is important, but that specifically aiming to achieve trust isn’t the best way to get there. 

Secondly, we have to take a moment to think about what people mean when they say they trust a brand. Different people have different things in mind when they use the word, so some of the distrust around trust could relate to the inaccuracy of self-report surveys or the lack of a clear definition of what trust means in people’s minds. It’s a concept that is more intuitive and emotional, and that makes it difficult to measure through analytical or rational measures. 

Lastly, while small fluctuations in consumer trust might not make a big impact, it’s important to consider the trust that’s conveyed through branding itself. In fact, the original motivation for putting a brand or a label on packaging came about so customers could recognize that a certain product came from a certain source. Therefore, the act of placing a name and a logo on packaging tells people where the product came from, and that’s an element of trust that’s not going away any time soon.

Overall, understanding of marketing psychology and consumer decision-making can help marketers settle on the right objectives. Feel free to give us a call at 833-578-1314 or email us at to discuss how we can help with your marketing challenges. In addition, sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch with the latest insights in marketing psychology.

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