By Paula Andruss
Experts agree: Weary consumers have had enough of false promises and conflicting marketing claims and are simply seeking brands they can trust.
"In most categories, products are essentially the same and offer the same rational benefits," says Jim Joseph, branding expert and author of The Experience Effect for Small Business. "It's the emotional benefits that make you a brand and get you into people's lives so they come back time and time again."
Jim Gregory, CEO of New York- and Los Angeles-based CoreBrand, a full-service brand consultancy that works with corporations, says, "Trust is a critical component of overall brand reputation today. People are more likely to do business with a company they trust, which means [trust] generates revenue and increases the enterprise value of the company."
A survey conducted by Concerto Marketing Group found that when people trust a brand, 83 percent will recommend it to others; 82 percent will use its products and services frequently; 78 percent will look to it first for the things they want; and 78 percent will give its other products and services a chance.
How do you earn that trust? Start with a brand story containing a human element to which consumers can relate, says Mark Lawrence, co-founder and CEO of SpotHero, a Chicago-based online parking reservation provider. "A lot of people associate negative feelings with parking, and we started this company because we've had those same feelings and wanted to make them positive," he says. "We're building a brand based on a personal problem of ours that others also identify with."
Once an emotional connection is made, it's important to stay true to that brand promise to prolong the sense of trust. "Authenticity is coming back as an emotional connection that people want to make with their brands," Joseph says. "It's about speaking truthfully; doing what you say, saying what you do and not exaggerating who you are."
For Lawrence, a big part of that delivery comes in the form of 24/7 customer support--which has paid dividends for SpotHero. "We want our customers to feel comfortable, so if they have questions, if they're lost or if they want to get a hold of an actual human being, they can call us," he says. "We take that engagement very seriously, so parking is not scary or frustrating, and we've found that in doing so, our customers get so excited about their experience they tell their friends all about it."