Blog>Ethical Marketing: The Importance of Brand Trust in 2023

Ethical Marketing: The Importance of Brand Trust in 2023

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Pella Helenius


Brand trust has always been important. According to Qualtrics, 65% of consumers have switched brand loyalties because the customer experience didn’t align with what had been promised by the brand. Consumers are becoming increasingly sceptical of marketing claims, meaning brand trust is now more important than ever.

This is particularly true for younger consumers. With 70% of Gen Z and millennials switching brands, as opposed to 50% of older consumers. Brand trust is defined as the level of confidence a consumer has in a brand, and there’s a lot that goes into building it, from the quality of the products and consistent customer experience to transparency policies. Small businesses are thought to have the advantage over large brands, due to their personal connection to customers. However, larger brands do have an edge when it comes to consistency.

According to a 2020 report from Edelman, 70% of those surveyed stated that trusting a brand is more important today than it was in the past. The report highlights the correlation between brand trust and brand loyalty. Those with high levels of trust in a brand stated that if the brand were to release a new product they would be interested in purchasing said product and likely check it out immediately upon release. Similarly, higher brand trust showed higher levels of engagement and brand advocacy. With marketers facing severe budget cuts amidst the cost of living crisis, building brand loyalty is one of the most effective strategies to harness, focusing on customer retention during a period in which it proves difficult to obtain new customers.

Why Are People Trusting Brands Less?

Growing consumer distrust can be attributed partly to the increasing spread of misinformation, following the rise of social media. According to Ofcom’s 2022 study, 30% of UK adult internet users, roughly 14.5 million, are unsure about the truthfulness of the information they read online. A further four in ten adults state they have seen a story on social media that appeared deliberately untrue or misleading in the last year.

However, social media has also enabled us to become far more aware of the irresponsible actions of companies than we used to be. Consumer distrust is particularly strong when it comes to a brand’s sustainability practices, due to the increasing number of brands making exaggerated or false claims. In our blog on ethical consumption we dive deeper into this, as almost half of consumers believe that brands are guilty of greenwashing, demonstrating the need for transparency.

So, What Goes Into Building Brand Trust?

Data Security

According to GWI, nearly 8 in 10 people do not feel in control of their personal data online, and an additional 38% say they’re extremely concerned about it. Does this concern translate into behaviour? Yes. Further research from Thales has revealed that a fifth of consumers worldwide have stopped using a company that has suffered a data breach. Aside from protecting personal data, the implementation of enhanced security measures demonstrates to consumers that the security of their data is a priority. On a global scale, consumers agree that better data security measures, like user authentication protocols, should be implemented, with over half believing this should be mandatory.


Authenticity and transparency are often used interchangeably. Although the two do go hand in hand, transparency is how much you share, whereas authenticity is the truth behind your words and actions. A 2022 report from NIQ found that 72% of consumers consider transparency to be important, with almost two thirds of those surveyed stating they would switch from a brand they usually buy from to another that provides more in-depth product information. Essentially proving the more transparent you are as a brand, the better.

However, it’s not just how much detail you share but the way in which you communicate that information to your audience. The Pratfall Effect is a concept outlined in social psychology, theorising that in owning our flaws and mistakes we come across as more appealing, this practice can be harnessed by marketers to humanise a brand. Guinness is a brilliant example of the Pratfall Effect in action. It should take roughly 119 seconds to pour a Guinness correctly, as opposed to the traditional 10 seconds it takes to pour a pint. The brand has used this fact to their advantage, owning the potential flaw by framing it in a positive light and adopting the tag line ‘good things come to those who wait.’


A paper published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies cites the definition of brand authenticity as ‘the extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful and true toward itself and its consumers, and to support consumers being true to themselves.’ Framing authenticity in this way puts the consumer at the centre, and in doing so, brands can help to focus their communications when practicing authenticity.

Patagonia is a prime example of a brand with high levels of transparency and authenticity. One of their core values is environmentalism, to ‘protect our home planet.’ They align these values with their marketing efforts, in 2011 running the Black Friday campaign titled ‘Don’t buy this jacket,’ encouraging consumers to consider the effect of their consumption habits on the environment. Though this may appear counterintuitive to sales, the brand saw its revenue grow by roughly 30% to $543 million in 2012. The key to the success of this radical authenticity is an understanding of their target audience. In using messaging that resonates with the audience, brands can practice authenticity to not only increase brand trust but to increase revenue.

Quality and Consistency

This goes without saying, delivering quality products or services consistently is essential for building brand trust and in turn, loyalty. If the occasion does arise where a product doesn’t meet consumer expectations, that’s when transparency comes into play. The loyalty fostered by consistent delivery will allow you to let your audience do the talking in the form of brand advocacy and social proof. According to HubSpot, 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations. What’s more, the average consumer reads around ten online reviews before making a purchase.