Does propensity to trust affect our loyalty to brands?

According to a recent study by Cohn & Wolfe (May, 2016) which examines brand authenticity across the globe, the UK consumers are among the most skeptical in the world. According to the report only 7% of people in the UK describe brands as "open and honest", which is the second lowest figure in any of 14 global markets. But how does this lack of trust and perceived authenticity affect our loyalty to brands?

We conducted research among 1071 UK consumers, which explores the the notion of trust to consumers, the propensity to trust across life stage and how these factors, among other, impacts on brand loyalty.

The findings show that the notion and feeling of trust is fundamental to people; not just in the way we shop and the brands we buy from, but in general. When we asked respondents to name three of their personal values (unprompted), over 30% of people stated ‘trust’ (or related words, like ‘trusting’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘trusted’) as one of them. Furthermore, when it comes to their own definition of brand loyalty around 20% of respondents stated (unpromoted) trust within their answer.

A brand that you can trust and always rely on
Staying loyal to a brand is important because it’s all about trust
Supporting a brand that provides trust and high quality

But what about our propensity to trust? If it is so important to us, does that make it harder to attain? When we asked respondents “when thinking about trusting other people, which of the following best describes your point of view?” over 45% of consumers agree that “most people can be trusted”. However, only 28% “trust the information I receive from brands I know”.

While trust is fundamental to our personal values and to what drives us to be loyal to brands, the default view of brands is scepticism, with 54% of people questioning the information they receive, which ties up with the existing research on the topic. This is not surprising, given that most businesses are out to make a financial gain from their customers. But what is surprising is the change in pattern between generations. In general, our propensity to trust people significantly increases with age, but our propensity to trust brands decreases.

Source: Q4 - When thinking about trusting other people, which of the following best describes your point of view? 

Source: Q4 - When thinking about trusting other people, which of the following best describes your point of view? 

There have been several studies and articles written around the Millennial consumer in particular, and their need for a more open and honest relationship with brands coupled with a higher propensity to be loyal. We have found that this supports the findings of our research, but that Gen K’s should in fact be the focus for marketers who are trying to target a ‘more loyal’ consumer.

So why the higher propensity to trust among younger audiences? There could be several factors at play here, which warrant further investigation, but our research shows a correlation between levels of confidence and propensity to trust. Based on these findings, it is argued that lower levels of confidence in selecting the right products and services and a greater reliance of the information received from brands, friends, experts and other consumers (predominantly sourced online), is a significant contributing factor.

As we get older and move through different life stages, we become more experienced in making the right purchase decisions and tend to focus on more functional benefits of the product and service being received, such as value for money, ease of use and convenience. Wheres for younger age groups the ability to depend on the brands we choose and trust that they can help us make the right decision is key. It is these brands to which we are most loyal.

To understand more about the drivers to loyalty and to see our framework for developing loyalty, download our full research paper.