The Business of Trust

Brand trust is an invaluable asset, yet the components of trust are hard to clearly identify or measure accurately.  It is generally accepted that trust is made up of two parts: cognitive trust based on a more rational evaluation of competence and reliability; and affective trust which is based on feelings or emotions.  It is this latter element of the trust equation which is far less transparent and much more difficult for objective or rationale based investigations.

Most research into what constitutes trust in the eyes of the consumer has been undertaken using traditional research methods.  Whilst doubtless of value, these methods require a level of conscious awareness and rational reporting of something which is driven at least in part by emotion or attitudes beyond our conscious awareness.  Consumers do not arrive at the conclusions that constitute trust through rational reasoning alone.  Their conscious mind does engage with the logical and rational, but at the same time their unconscious mind will be engaged with the emotional measures of trust which they will be largely unaware of and unable to describe.

Impressions Count

When we meet a new person for the first time we make an unconscious judgement call: is this person trustworthy or not?  This instinctive and often automatic reaction and the reasons behind it would be almost impossible for us to explain but they nonetheless would affect all future interactions between ourselves and this person.

To understand more clearly what specific elements make up trust we need to access the unconscious mind as well as the conscious or rational.  To see beyond the rational we have to take away the limitations of conventional market research such as questionnaires, predefined tick boxes and focus groups, and replace them with a method that taps directly into the unconscious; without the need for the participants to have to try explain, predict or analyse their thoughts, feelings or actions.

The CWA technique (see earlier blog) is a strong and proven psychological method based upon the relationship that exists between how people feel and the colours they select for any given stimulus.

These colours become the ‘hot buttons’ that can relay and translate information from the consumer’s subconscious mind to reveal their real feelings and motivations that are so often hidden, even to the participants themselves.

Using this method of response alongside associational analysis allows the detection of unconscious associations and perceptions which people may be unaware of but which can have a profound effect on their attitudes and peace of mind.

Trust in a Digital World

The issue of trust was investigated as part of a recent study into the retail banking sector in the UK. The concepts ‘honest’ and ‘helpful’ were found to have the strongest bond with ‘trust’, with other factors such as ‘approachable’ and ‘caring’ also featuring highly.  This underlines the idea that trust assessment is as much based on personal- or emotion-led factors such as perceptions of fairness and caring for the customer as it is on reliability or competitiveness.

Digital business models by their very nature remove physical contact and proximity to people which are the most powerful means of engendering trustworthiness.  Indeed our research showed a very high association between the concept of a ‘nearby branch’ and ‘trust’.

Rebuilding Trust

There is an opportunity to mitigate this and to increase rapport by acquiring an increased understanding of people’s deeply held needs and beliefs, particularly around the issue of trust.

By gaining a deeper insight into these latent or hidden components of trust in the mind of the consumer, powerful information and insights can be found to enable you to adjust which activities and measures you choose to focus on to increase your brand trust and build sustainable competitive advantage.


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