How to build (and kill) brand image

With the recent release of the Gustavson Brand Trust Index, I was invited on CFAX talk radio to chat about how to build brand image – and how to destroy it.

You can join host Mark Brennae and myself as we discuss the Gustavson Index, Edelman’s Global Trust Barometer, how brand trust mirrors global events, and the rapidly shifting trust landscape that brands have to navigate.

Or, if you’d prefer, check out the highlights of our conversation in the paragraphs below.

Brand image, trust, and global events

Edelman’s Global Trust Barometer does more than describe levels of trust in institutions like media, business, government and non-governmental organizations (NGO). It finds the trends hidden in the numbers.

So, for example, 2002’s findings pointed to the fall of the celebrity CEO – the year ‘golden’ CEO’s like Martha Stewart had their comeuppance.

And in 2012, we saw the decline of government trust, coinciding with the disillusioned reaction to Barack Obama’s first term, as well as the ongoing global recession.

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2016 saw the rise of a new phenomenon – inequality of trust. For the first time, Edelman’s study reflected a growing mistrust between the ‘informed elites’ and the ‘mass’ population. If you look at the US election, Brexit, and growing unease around the refugee crisis in Europe, it isn’t hard to see why.

So how do brands build a positive image in this environment? By not abandoning buyers after the sale, and offering a message steeped in honesty.

Top 5 brands (and the bottom)

In my opinion, lists get ‘fuzzy’ in the middle – what does finishing 35th tell you, vs finishing 37th? It’s the top 5 finishers, and the bottom 5, that reveal interesting trends.

This year’s Gustavson Index had, for me, a few brands of particular interest at the top and bottom. VW, for example, finished at the bottom – a dizzying fall in trust for the car of the volk. Amazing what an emissions scandal, papered over by guilty executives, can do to a previously rock solid brand.

a new, trusted brand image in news

A final noteworthy trend from the studies: the majority of us trust peer to peer news more than we do professional journalism.

This can be attributed in part to the rise of social media and self-empowered citizen journalists. It’s also due to the gutting of traditional news outlets, and the drift of major news networks like CNN and Fox toward political partisanship.

For brands, this shift is reflected in our penchant for consumer product reviews over advertising. We trust an honest review more than a slick ad.

Except when the review is actually fake, and paid for. Which, unfortunately, seems to be a pervasive trend.

To counter that breach of trust, entrepreneurs like Mark How are launching companies like Shopswell.

Shopswell features products that are reviewed by ordinary consumers who are remunerated based on the value of their review – not the sales of the product.

This reward for wisdom and integrity points to a bit of redemption in a time where brand image is taking a beating, and trust is anemic.

But let’s see what next year’s Indexes bring.

As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business… and then helps them tell the world. For more on creating your company’s value proposition, connect with Marc on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up to his monthly newsletter.  

Want to try building your own powerful brand to create unfair business advantage? Try out Marc’s DIY Brand Build Guide – available now.

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