What Makes a Brand Trustworthy?
There’s more that keeps us going back than just honest communication
You’ve probably heard it said that consumers only buy from those they trust.
It’s easier to understand what that means when you think of salespeople. Like, imagine you walk into a car dealership and one of their salesmen approaches you. He’s probably wearing a suit and tie. He’s probably friendly and gregarious. He probably shakes your hand, asks insightful questions about what you’re looking for, and then uses his expertise to suggest the right car.
You may decide you trust him. You may not — maybe there’s something in his mannerisms that seems shady, or he ignores your budget and offers expensive cars, indicating that he’s only thinking of his commission.
But regardless, we know what it means to trust a person.
What does it mean to trust a brand? And why do we continue to trust brands when they break our trust?
I offer myself as an example. I used to eat Chipotle all the time. Then they had one health issue with their ingredients and made a bunch of people sick, but I kept eating there. Then they had another health issue, but I didn’t stop. Yet another group of people got sick, but I still eat there, and damn it, I love it.
Why is that?
Arguably, the most important facet of a restaurant that you should trust if you’re going to eat there is the quality of the ingredients — at least inasmuch as they won’t make you terribly ill.
Chipotle has broken that trust and given me a reason to believe that my health might be in jeopardy every time I order from them. But I still do it.
In fact, I even once got food poisoning myself after eating a Chipotle burrito. Was it the burrito or was it the McDonald’s breakfast I’d had that morning? There’s no way to be sure, but I definitely remember throwing up the burrito, and you’d think that memory might prevent me from eating there again.
So how does a brand like Chipotle develop consumer trust so powerful that it can weather storms that might otherwise cost them everything?
In the case of Chipotle, there’s no question here: I go back because I love their burritos. They’re addicting. Even when one burrito isn’t so good or the brand makes a misstep, I can’t live without them.
And that needs to be the goal. Not just so your brand will get a pass in the event it makes a mistake, but simply because that’s how business should be run. Create a product that’s irresistible to your target market and they’ll forgive you for almost anything.
Sell the Dream
Ideally, this isn’t an illusion you have to sell, but rather, the dream is part of your brand at its core.
Chipotle’s restaurants look really clean, making it easy to believe that the health issues were one-off and rare. The company has done the hard work necessary to instill confidence in their product as soon as you walk through the door, and that lessens the impact of mistakes.
My local Chipotle isn’t going to poison me — it’s so clean!
Whatever your key points of trust are, make sure that your company looks trustworthy at all times.
Own Your Mistakes
When bad things happen, own them. Go above and beyond to fix them. It’s what your customers want and even what many of them expect.
Making it right when customers experience an issue makes them more loyal than if there had never been an issue in the first place.
Think about your own life. You’ve probably spent money on a brand that at one point gave you a reason to mistrust them.
You probably bought a pair of shoes that you knew had been made in a sweatshop. You probably bought the new iPhone the year of Apple’s scandal involving their overseas manufacturers. You probably still bank at Wells Fargo (but Christ, you really shouldn’t).
The point is, we all do it. Many brands are actually really good at these things. This just means that if yours isn’t, you’re not likely to last long among your competitors who are.