Trust vs. Belief
Brands looking to build lasting relationships with their customers, AKA brand loyalty, need to first build trust. No one gets confused into buying something they don’t understand, but customers also don’t buy products they aren’t emotionally engaged with and that they don’t trust.
There’s a subtle, yet important, distinction between trust and belief.
Trust is a general feeling based on one’s perception of the source. For someone to trust your brand they must feel good about it. This usually is a transfer or extension on behalf of the one trusting, hence the term “extending your trust.” Trusting can be risky. By trusting a brand the customer is hoping that the brand will deliver on its promise.
Belief on the other hand tends to be something that is grounded in either facts or experiences. For instance, if a customer has a string of exceptional experiences with your brand or product they will not only trust your brand, they will believe that you will continue to deliver. Belief also is often an alignment in values. If you know what a brand believes in and they live up to those beliefs you have confidence in that brand, which is more firmly rooted than trust.
Said simply: trust is offered; belief is earned.
During one stage of our brand evolution process at Matter Consulting, we spend focused time in defining anchored “reasons to believe” (RTBs), which are proof points that support the brand promise. Without these RTBs customers need to extend their trust. With them, they begin their belief journey.
Think of it this way. Envision a brand you believe in or one you don’t. Now, ask yourself, “Because of the brand’s actions am I willing to extend trust to them?”
Answer yes, or no. Is that because of what they did or how you feel about what they did? Chances are it’s both; and especially how their actions make you feel.
For me, that was Audi, on both sides of belief. Once I believed, now I don’t trust. Even though I own a vehicle that was not affected by the recent emission scandals, I have significantly diminished belief in their brand. And, thanks to their well-documented dishonest deeds, I have ceased extending trust to them. Audi will now have to rebuild trust with its customers. That will likely take years, and they won’t win every customer back.
“Trust is like blood pressure. It’s silent, vital to good health, and if abused it can be deadly.”—Frank Sonnenberg, author of Follow Your Conscience
What’s at stake?
When applying this to brands who want loyal and lasting relationships, a company needs to be clear about its brand promise and go to great lengths to live up to it.
Your brand promise and the effects that come from delivering on it create the foundation for a lasting and loyal audience. So, if you want brand loyalty, you have to act consistently from your values so that customers believe your promise.
How to earn belief:
- Know your brand promise and make sure your brand can live up to it. One example, Subway promises to “deliver healthy food fast.” They seem to live up to that.
- Build your RTBs. Create and articulate clear RTBs to support your promise. These should be simple, but factual. Once people begin to trust your promise, they’ll want to know more. RTBs back up what you promise to deliver. RTBs help to transition your brand into a believable one.
- Live the promise. The actions of your brand should live in accordance with the promises you state. People believe in consistent action—the more consistent the better. This is why the franchise model works so well. People support predictability and they want their expectations to be met.
- Repeat and deliver. Over time you must live up to your promise. All media touchpoints must have a clear intent and manner in which they reinforce the promise. Some will echo the promise and some will deliver RTBs. Facebook, for instance, is an ideal platform to reinforce the RTBs due to the robust media you can serve up there, and it’s a more personal channel, so more customer intimacy can be created.
“The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust.”— Abraham Lincoln
Want to learn more about building brand trust and belief? Have a look at these articles:
- Promises, Promises — The power and potency of a “brand promise”
- Working Beyond Absolutes — How paradoxes are part of business and life, and ways to confront them.
- The Role of Empathy — In marketing, leadership, brands, and cultures empathy plays a critical role in trust-building.
Steve can help you create an integrated belief-driven business that can reach and align with more of the right people —employees, customers, donors and investors—in a sustainable and meaningful way.