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Brad Breininger & Marko Zonta

Zync - Journal | The pandemic effect on brand trust.

Discussing how the pandemic has impacted brand trust.

The pandemic effect on brand trust.

This week we want to revisit a topic we covered last year—Brand trust.  We believe we are at a point where we can evaluate the effect of the pandemic on brand trust.

We also take a look at the updated Gustavson Brand Trust Index report and talk about what’s changed in a year. 

Did the pandemic effectively have an effect on brand trust? What did we discover in this year’s report? How has the pandemic affected big corporations like Bell, Telus, or Amazon? And how has it impacted the smaller brands?

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Recorded on October 15, 2021.


Brad Breininger: 0:00
Hi everybody, and welcome to this week’s everything is brand. This week we want to revisit a topic that we talked about last year actually on brand trust, but we have a new spin on it. And we’re asking the question, what is the pandemic effect on brand trust? Let’s go. The question that we want to explore today is did the pandemic have an effect on brand trust? And I know last year, wh n we talked about brand trust t ere was a report that talked a out some of the most tru ted Canadian brands, Christ an, maybe you can kind of give u an update. I understand there s a new brand report out and the e’s some interesting findings.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 0:43
Yeah actually, to your point. There are some findings that really surprised me To be honest, one of them being for example, the big three telcos, at Bell, Telus and Rogers, they saw increases in trust throughout the pandemic. Why was that because we became more dependent on them, right? Another interesting fact was that the Canadian Automobile Association remains as Canada’s most trusted brand. And Amazon, on the other hand, shows little sign of recovery. Surprisingly, there have been some effects, on brand trust, some of them positive, some of them negative. But it’s an interesting fact. Another thing that I can highlight from this report is that, for example, brands, like Lego, interac, they’ve all gone up quite a lot of steps on the ranking of, for example, interac was in 16th place, and now it’s fourth place. Lego was ninth, and now it’s on third place. The one remaining – the one that hasn’t changed at all, was the Canadian Automobile Association – was first last year, and it’s the first this year as well.

Brad Breininger: 2:05
It’s interesting that you know, the rankings and by the way, just for listeners, we will put a link to the report right in the description of the podcast, so that you can access the report and take a look at it yourself. But what I find interesting is that a lot of the brands that have either maintained their position or gone up are brands that are very much helpful – like whether it’s keeping us connected, or whether it’s coming in helping us with our cars if they break down, or whether it’s, you know, a toy that we can play with our kids, it seems like a lot of the brand trust around the things. So you know, what I glean from that is that the pandemic has actually pushed brands that support us, or help us or give us things to use during this time, have actually gone up in trust and are probably trusted more.

Marko Zonta: 2:58
So yeah, so it sounds like really brands that kind of rely on during the – especially this period are gaining trust. But it’s it’s interesting, though, because, you know, there is the brand trust, I think for brands that are, you know, like you said Brad like helping and then there are obviously brands that are really kind of struggling with, you know, some of the other emotions or concerns that people have just in general. And I think that some of those brands are actually suffering in terms of perhaps losing trust or not being able to connect with their followers or members as easily.

Brad Breininger: 3:33
One of the ones that I think has had a lot of hits to it during the pandemic is kind of government brands or government party brands, whether it’s liberals, conservatives, or even in the United States, the republicans or even the Democrats, it almost feels like the amount of trust that people are putting in government, whether it’s local or national, seems to be waning. And I think that part of that is because they’ve been in charge of kind of getting us through this pandemic, but at the same time, have they been as open and communicative as they could be? Have they been pandering to the people who pay their support dollars? What do you guys think? I mean, do you think that government brands can pull out of this as the pandemic rages on or or even starts to alleviate a little bit?

Marko Zonta: 4:27
You know, unfortunately, I think government brands, political brands in general, I think that they are very closely connected with pharmaceutical companies right now. And there is unfortunately a lot of misinformation or purposeful information out there that is eroding that that trust in general right? So you know, and I think that people are also a lot more globally aware. So you know, in there, there is a lot of mistrust in government in you know, a lot of global areas. So I think that that is kind of transferring over to To our local governments, whether it’s within Canada or North America, or whatever it may be. So I think that it’s that connection to some of the brands that people for whatever reason, they’re not necessarily trusting them right now. So I think I think that there is that kind of direct connection. And quite frankly, I think that a lot of that mistrust is misplaced. I think that we are also kind of looking at the combination of the pandemic, and social media effect like the two together because what social media enables people to do is that they actually can belong to a tribe, right. So if you all of a sudden fall into a tribal situation where you connect with people who believe the same thing, or whatever it may be, it really just kind of pushes that idea forwards, right? So there’s a lot of mistrust in very, very specific areas or groups. And I think that that, you know, the pandemic and social media kind of together is, I think, really kind of the driving force behind some of this. Yeah, it’s the

Brad Breininger: 5:57
Yeah, it’s the combination of the two. combination

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 5:59
it’s funny that you bring up social media, right? Because another aspect that the report mentions is the relation between trust and privacy and data. Right. And the top most trusted companies, when it comes to data are of course, some some of the top banks of Canada, Visa, MasterCard, Manulife, etc. But when it comes to the lower end of that score chart, you see companies like YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, and of course, at the end of that chart you see Facebook.

Brad Breininger: 6:35
Yeah, I mean, I think that the erosion of trust in social media, I think, is just a snowball rolling down a hill gaining more and more momentum. And I think that, you know, and things that we’ve seen recently, like the whistleblower on the, on the 60 minutes report on Facebook, and you know, a bunch of events that are kind of going on, around social media, and just around the manipulation that people are saying social media has on things like trust, when it comes to government, but also to brands or anything else, like Marko was saying, you know, tribes, we’ve kind of broken up into these, these tribes, and everybody just believes what they believe and understands what they understand and trusts what they trust, but they don’t go beyond that. And it’s like, we’re losing a little bit of the conversation,

Sasha Codrington: 7:25
I was gonna change direction a bit towards brands using social media, because like you said, I think people are losing trust in social media as platforms. But I think I’ve gained trust for some of the brands that are utilizing social media throughout the pandemic, depending how they’re using it. So some small brands I’ve followed, they’ve become more transparent through the pandemic, if they’re having issues with, let’s say, production, instead of just remaining silent and not saying why they’re out of stock for, let’s say, two months, I’ve seen a lot of brands just being extremely transparent, posting on their social media saying, oh, there’s a shortage of this product, or we’re not able to get employees into the factory in the same capacity that we used to. And the brands that have been really transparent throughout the pandemic are the ones that I have more trust in now, just because you can empathize with them and understand what they’re going through, you know, the pandemic looks different for you at home as well. So I think the brands that have kind of leveraged social media and the pandemic in that way to connect with their customers are the ones that have, for me, at least gone up in trust.

Brad Breininger: 8:28
So what you’re talking about then is two different ways to look at social media. You’re looking at it as their social media, the tool for some of these smaller brands to get that messaging out. Then there’s social media, the manipulator, which is, you know, trying to get a certain way of thinking across and it’s almost like a yin and yang kind of thing that’s happening in social because in some ways, they’re alleviating trust, and in other ways they’re boosting trust, depending on how you look at it.

Jeremy Linskill: 8:57
Well, we’ve kind of changed directions a little bit. But I mean, I think to Sasha’s point. I mean, transparency, and I would argue also consistency as well, like, for me in regards to, you know, trusting brands, I’ve definitely gone the way of consistency. Ones that I know that I can count on – I’m not so inclined to take risks on brands right now. Being that I’m, I don’t know, I feel like I’m living in my house really, right. So if I have any issues I’ve kind of got to operate from within my home. And so that sort of directs me into the kind of aspect of, of looking at things where I’ve had consistent experiences. I personally, am kind of a little bit the opposite, where I’m not really investing in smaller brands right now from from that perspective, because I find that they’re a little bit riskier in terms of the experience I might have with them. And so I sort of lean more to the bigger brands right now, for that reason alone I think.

Brad Breininger: 9:51
Yeah, I was having a conversation with someone a couple days ago, and they were saying to me, how they understand, you know, kind of what Amazon is doing and how Amazon is kind of taking over. But at the same time, from the perspective of convenience and ability to return things and get things when you need them, there’s so many good aspects to what you know, Amazon brings to the table. And even though they want to support local and shop local, they also are weighing that with the fact that how much more difficult it might be perhaps to return things or to get your money back or to exchange or, or whatever the issues might be. And, and so I think that there’s kind of two sides to this trust issue. There’s the peace around wanting to do well and do good. And then there’s the other side, which is wanting the convenience and the ease of connection with these brands. And I think it goes beyond just retail brands, I think it kind of touches everything that we do and say and and you know, even when it comes to the environmental aspect of all this people know

Marko Zonta: 10:54
You know, you brought up here very interesting in their hearts and minds that plastic straws aren’t good for the environment, yet they’re onvenient, and they’re easy, nd paper straws get all mushy. nd so it’s this yin and yang hing that seems to be appening. And I’m just ondering where we’re gonna end p on on which side of that rust side? Do we trust in rands that are going to take us n a direction that’s better for he world? Or are we going to rust in brands that make things asier and convenient? What do ou guys think?

Brad Breininger: 11:31
Well, are we even able? And this is this is a topic about plastic straws. And I think that that is a really problematic area for a lot of brands going forward. Plastic question that’s very much related to trust. Are we even straws are a problem. Sure. But they are such a small problem in able to trust brands based on what they tell us anymore? comparison to the real problem that they should be dealing with. But of course, they’re using that, for marketing Because does the marketing just push it in a direction that purposes to look good, and to talk about it. But they’re really not solving the problem. The reality is that companies that actually eliminated plastic straws instead, some of them replaced them with paper straws, but the ones that it didn’t, they actually redesigned their plastic lids or you know, covers. And those actually use more plastic than the old li with the straw combined, right But they’re now talking abou how great they are. So do yo trust that brand, right? Like again, it’s all the marketin angle and how they are trying t use that I just want to add to that, like, you know, Sasha, you makes them look as good as they possibly can look so that people aren’t getting the full message of who they really are? I mean, you know, we’ve talked in the past and Sasha, you brought this up, particularly when it comes to fashion brands and kind of the whole quick fashion element and tying it to the green. And you know, this isn’t necessarily discussion about the greening or greenwashing. But it’s almost like the magician who says, Okay, look at this hand. Meanwhile, the other hand over here is doing something completely different. Right? And talked about trusting brands more, because they’re clearly that affects trust doesn’t communicating what’s going on, you know, all of a sudden, that sounds true, that sounds transparent. It sounds clear, right? And trusting a brand that’s actually communicating that way, is very different. This is not like telling us some beautiful story. They’re actually sharing facts, right? So so that’s very different. And I think that, really, social media is just the channel. I mean, it’s a very accessible channel, instead of advertising on TV or putting up billboards, or in the old days, putting an ad in a newspaper, it’s really just a new channel, right? And how you use it really the past. But is it just a new channel? I mean, when you put up a billboard, you could not say okay, only people driving BMWs that cost $50,000 or more are going to see this billboard, it was there for everyone, right? It was there for everyone. So the trust factor was a lot broader. Whereas now going back to what you were saying about tribes, everything is so targeted, and everything is so specific about who sees it, that it can’t even create trust, it’s no longer telling a story. It’s telling the right story to the right audience to get the right reaction, as opposed to just putting something out there and getting a reaction. A great example of that is if you put a controversial movie out into the world, and you know you’re going to get people who agree with it or disagree with it, who trust the story, or don’t trust the story, and they’re going to talk about it. They’re gonna say, Oh, I really liked that and other people can say oh, I hated it, because it did this and that, but the reality is, is that you’re going to have that conversation. Now with social media, you don’t have those conversations, because everybody who would love a movie like that are the only ones seeing it. Everybody who would hate that movie, it’s not falling into their timeline, it’s not going into that messaging is not going into their timeline. So what’s happening is we’re pulling these conversations, that before would build and inspire trust, we’re pulling them out of the – out of the ethos, right? So I’m not sure that it’s just marketing that’s the problem. I think it’s the storytelling, that’s the problem. What do you guys think?

Sasha Codrington: 15:39
I would say, you were mentioning, are we moving in the direction of some of these bigger brands that have the convenience, versus some smaller brands and kind of their concern for the world. For me, I would say, in my generation, we’re looking for marketing that leans towards those small brands, because they are more honest, and more transparent. But I think I’d be open to seeing that kind of messaging and storytelling that you’re mentioning, from a bigger brand. I think, usually right now at least those bigger brands are more hesitant to put out more honest messaging or more open messaging about some of their issues, let’s say, versus small brands, they have less layers to get through to put an honest message out there. And that happens on social media more often than not, where they might share an image of an employee, or they might talk about kind of day to day, and that’s not something you’re gonna see on a billboard, because it just doesn’t line up with that kind of marketing. But for me, that more personal messaging – more honest and communicative is, is what works. And I’ve been seeing that on social media more than anywhere else, right now, at least. And an example of this, that’s just a small example was there’s a Canadian Hot Sauce company that we order from quite often. And they had, I guess, a global shortage of a certain kind of cap that they use for all of their bottles. And instead of just sending out the bottles with a replacement cap that didn’t work so well, and not saying anything, they put a big card in the box that said, we know these bottle caps suck, we’re trying our best. We’re trying to get them and we can’t. And I appreciate little things like that. Because if you just got the new packaging, and it didn’t work for you, you might not order again, because it’s extremely inconvenient, but because they’re very honest about it. And they just said, we know, we’re doing our best and we’re trying, we’ve continued to order from them. And it’s just little pieces of information like that, where if someone on a company is willing to share it, I’m much more likely to put my money there.

Marko Zonta: 17:35
And it’s interesting, because they turned that problem into a great relationship building opportunity.

Sasha Codrington: 17:41
Exactly. And I think a lot of companies have managed to do that in the pandemic, specifically on those small interactions through social media or their packaging, whatever it might be. Those have really stuck with me throughout the last year.

Brad Breininger: 17:55
So what do you think? How could a big brand kind of jump on that bandwagon? Because for me, I mean, I think that, you know, from a trust perspective, if it’s a local brands like that, or a smaller organization, I almost feel like, it’s more personal. And when they say stuff like that, it feels very personal to me, and I believe it. Whereas I feel like if a big brand tried to do that, I would think that they were trying to cover up some sort of supply chain issue. And this was just like an excuse or an angle. So, you know, like, I don’t know, maybe I’m just very jaded, but –

Jeremy Linskill: 18:28
That’s what I was gonna say, Brad, like, in all honesty, it was funny when Sasha said her generation, and I was thinking, Okay, well, my generation, I think we’ve been through all of that. And we’re on the other side where we’re so jaded, by being taken advantage of, and all that kind of stuff that has happened to us over time, that I would look at it from a different angle be like, Yeah, what are you up to? Like? Are you trying to save yourself a couple bucks here, like, you know what I mean? Like, that’s what I find. It’s jadedness a little bit that plays into and it’s just your time and place of dealing with that brand, I think has an effect on your thoughts towards them. I don’t know what do you guys think?

Sasha Codrington: 19:05
I do you agree to it – to that point, like I would definitely still be more cynical if it was a brand like Amazon or Facebook trying to say oh, we’re having this issue. I don’t think I would accept it at face value necessarily. But this is a very – the example that I gave that company – is a very small like family run company in PEI so I’m much slower to have those kind of jaded thoughts or –

Brad Breininger: 19:30
They’re from PEI so you know, they’re nice anyway, so that that just that helps buy them some trust right there.

Jeremy Linskill: 19:36
Is there also the effect of like, you know, it’s a once in a while that you’re experiencing that right? Like it’s maybe one brand here, one brand over there, but if everybody was doing that would it have the same effect? Would you feel the same loyalty towards all those brands? But because you’re getting those little experiences here and there. I mean, it’s a big brand start to play into it. It’s going to affect the little brands too. It’s going to take away from everyone, right?

Sasha Codrington: 19:59
Ya it’s definitely possible. I think the biggest takeaway for me is that I just appreciate honesty from brands in terms of building trust, like honesty is the number one thing. And that probably looks different for a small brand versus a big brand, how they communicate that. But that’s what’s always made the difference for me. And I think, for an example, Facebook, I don’t think anyone feels that they’re particularly honest or open at this point. And that hasn’t served them well lately, clearly.

Brad Breininger: 20:24
Yeah. And to that point Sasha, I mean, I think it’s easier for small brands to do small things. But if a big brand tries to do small things, that’s not going to be accepted. It’s almost like, if you’re a small brand, and you do small things that feels open and honest and trustworthy. But if you’re a big brand, you need to do some bigger things. Like it’s almost like that line from the Marvel movies with great power comes great responsibility, right? Like, it’s, it’s such a true thing. And I think you hit the nail on the head, Sasha, that honesty is the foundation of trust, it really is, I mean, if you feel like you’re constantly being lied to, whether it’s a person or a brand, or a social media platform, or whatever it is, but if you feel like you’re constantly being lied to, or one’s being pulled over on you, your trust is going to erode to the point that you’re just like, Yeah, no, sorry, you can’t come back from this. And so it has to be integrated. Honesty has to be integrated.

Marko Zonta: 21:23
We talked about, you know, governments a little bit at the beginning. And that, I think, is one of the biggest challenges for them is people, you know, are not trusting them, or they’re confused, because there is no clear communication. It’s not like they actually come on TV or whatever, and clearly communicate what they’re doing. And actually following through, right, like, there is a lot of kind of wishy washy messaging, and you don’t really know who to believe or who to trust, who to follow. So I think that that’s something that if brands fall into that as well, that’s where the trust just washes away.

Brad Breininger: 22:05
And that’s a really great point. I mean, I think that you know, those foundational elements that you’re adding to that list, MarKo. So there’s honesty, there’s straightforwardness, there’s action, not just words, there’s follow up, there’s being clear, clarity, and communication are key to all of this. I mean, those are the foundational elements of building trust. And if brands aren’t doing them, they can’t expect to garner the trust of their clients and potential clients or customers.

Jeremy Linskill: 22:35
But isn’t there like, different times for that stuff? Like, I mean, when a brand is first starting out, yes, they have to build trust, and all that. But eventually, you kind of just expect it a little bit, right? You know, you’re talking about all the stuff about like, open lines of communication and that, but at some point, if you look at a person, you have to just trust them to get the job done. Like I don’t want all those lines of communication. I don’t need updates constantly on things, I just get to a point where it’s like, okay, I’ve had that stuff. I’m good. Now I trust you to go on and do the work. Right?

Brad Breininger: 23:11
Yeah, I mean, I think that there’s levels, Jer, I think, you know, I don’t need to know from Walmart, what their ongoing business plan is, and all of that. But I think from a government who’s managing a pandemic, I need to know you’re not gonna have my trust if I don’t know what’s going on. So I think you’re right, I think it’s differs.

Jeremy Linskill: 23:27
I mean, I struggle with the whole government thing, because I think that that’s just a losing cause. I don’t think you ever trust the government, I’m not sure that government can ever be trusted. Personally, if it’s not you that second guessing em, it’s the right wing person over on the other side of the coin doing this. So I just, I have a hard time with government and being part of this discussion, because I just think that they’re set up for failure, no matter what there’s always going to be trust issues with with the government.

Brad Breininger: 23:54
I wonder if it’s trust issues, or I wonder if it’s just keeping tabs, right. Like, I think that we have to keep tabs on government, we have to keep tabs on brands as well. I mean, I think that, you know, the whole appeal of the story that this whistleblower is telling about Facebook, the reason people are so interested in intrigued is because, yes, maybe in the background, they did have this trust built up, and now they’re hearing something different. And when the truth comes out like that, it’s almost like wait a second, I think people do go into that trust element that you’re talking about Jeremy, but if something comes up to challenge that then they kind of go, Oh, wait a second, I put my trust in this platform, and now you’re telling me that it’s manipulating me? I need to know more about that. Right. So I think that trust can ebb and flow the way waves do, right? Like it almost feels like we have to constantly be questioning. I agree with you that government is quite different than brands and although we’ve kind of integrated them both into this discussion, there are different requirements and there are different levels of I guess watch doggedness. If we want to call it that, however, I think that in the end, it behooves all of us to be questioning whether we’re questioning environmental policies of big brands, whether we’re questioning how well the government is handling an issue, like a pandemic, or the economic future, whether we’re asking ourselves, you know, are we supporting local little brands, even though they might be struggling more than some of the big brands, whether we’re saying I’m going to accept a lot more from a smaller brand, like Sasha said, but I’m going to expect great things from these larger brands, I’m not just going to accept that, you know, oh, sorry, we’re doing our best to get these caps I’m sorry, you control manufacturing in countries around the world if you want to get things done, you can get them done. So I think it really comes down to this idea that there is a an expectation for brands to understand their place in the overall psyche of their customers, and also understand what it’s going to take for them to be trusted. You know, CAA going back to the report, Christian CAA sits at the top of that list, because their whole brand is built around being there to help when you’re in a situation that is awful situation stranded by the side of the highway stranded on a country road stranded because your car doesn’t work. You know, maybe you have your kid in a car seat in the back. And here comes CAA, the superhero of the day to save you, of course that inspires trust. So I think that you know, brands really have to look at who they are, what they do, what is going on in the rest of society, whether it’s a pandemic or a great economic situation, whatever it might be, and, and really start to think about how they’re going to build trust in the best possible way. So that’s this edition of everything is brand. Tune in next week, we’ll have a new topic, a new discussion and remember, everything is brand

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