Consumer trust is at an all-time low across many sectors according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Report. Since 2001, Edelman have been producing the annual trust report, surveying a global audience to see where trust lies in certain industries.

During the current era of fake news, reviews, and rumours of election tampering, it’s clear the general public has lost faith in many of its trusted institutions.

As such, it’s never been more important for brands to be honest and transparent with their client base. Consumers already believe businesses to be competent, but to prove that they are ethical would be a driving factor for their success.

1. Actions speak louder than words

It’s all well and good talking the talk, but now more than ever brands need to walk the walk.

Recently, tech giant Microsoft announced a negative carbon emission programme, which increased the trust and financial stock of their brand. Because they store millions of people’s private data, it’s important that they can be seen as ethical and therefore trustworthy. Take it from their corporate vice president Tuula Rytila who stated that trust is earned when actions meet words. “It’s imperative that companies take specific actions before they start talking about them.”

Companies that hold themselves accountable and appear transparent are seen as more trustworthy, and a rise in ethical behaviour drives customers to brands, as the Edelman Trust Barometer shows. If a company recognises their own faults and adapts, they can also help increase profit and reputation.

Take for example Domino’s CEO Patrick Doyle recognising that the quality of their pizza was not up to scratch. By outwardly admitting that changes need to be made, and then taking action to make improvements to its products, Dominos put trust back in its brand while benefitting from increased sales.

A brand’s image must relate to its audience, and especially through the right media. Globally, customers want companies to stop advertising with media platforms that fail to prevent the spread of fake news.  Focusing on your brand image and how you’re pushing out your messaging, can have a massive impact on brand trust.


2. Empty promises result in distrust

Brands that make promises to their consumers need to make sure that they follow up on them. If not, they run the very real risk of alienating their client base and prospective customers.

So perhaps there have been too many empty promises of late! The Edelman Trust Barometer shows a worrying decrease in trust across all sectors, with technology and entertainment leading the decline. This means that these industries in particular have the most work to do to improve their image.

In the case of technology, people distrust AI and its advancements – it threatens jobs and data protection. Microsoft focuses on this by pushing the importance of cyber security. They’ve done this through promising to retrain employees that are at risk of getting replaced through advancements in technology.

The decline in trust for the entertainment industry could largely be down to the rise of the #metoo movement. Pulling back the curtain on such a massive scale to expose the corrupt nature of Hollywood has no doubt caused many onlookers to distrust the wider entertainment industry in general.

It’s all well and good making promises, but keeping them is another thing entirely.

According to a recent Gallup survey, companies deliver on their brand promises just half of the time. For customers to remember and trust you, you must hold yourself accountable for the quality of your products and services.

In relation to accountability, it is clear that authenticity is as important as it’s ever been for businesses. A recent survey from marketing software company Stackla found that 90% of consumers said that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they support, up from 86% in 2017. This shows the urgency of making sure your business comes across as authentic.

It also found that 92% of marketers believe that most of the content they create resonates as authentic with consumers. Yet the majority of consumers disagree, with 51% saying less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic. So, this needs to be taken as a sign for businesses to take a look at their brands and see if they are truly being authentic with their audience.

While authentic content that resonates may seem difficult to create, it has a significant effect when the transparency connects.

3. Ethical behaviour resonates (when done right)

One factor that has not changed over the last five years is that consumers trust each other.

Businesses proving to be ethical and competent can help push their brand into the conversation of consumers. A great example is Greggs, who recently announced after a terrific year to give their employees a £7 million bonus.

Another instance is Starbucks, who has been offering jobs to many sectors of society. They’ve pledged that by 2025 it will have hired 25,000 veterans as part of their socially responsible efforts.

The company has joined with the UN Refugee Agency to scale the company’s efforts to hire 10,000 refugees by 2022. This hiring initiative will also look to hire more young people with the aim of helping jump-start careers by giving them their first job.

These examples of ethical behaviour and corporate social responsibility, alongside their business competency, means these brands stand out to consumers. After all, who doesn’t love an ethical vegan sausage roll and cup of feel good coffee?

To gain trust, brands must be seen as both ethical and competent, and to do this they must strive to be authentic.

Authenticity comes from relatability to your audience, and one way of doing that is by using user generated content (UGC). Aside from the obvious benefit of increased engagement with your consumer base, it also creates conversations between like-minded prospective purchasers.

According to Stackla, while consumers are 2.4x more likely to say UGC is most authentic (when compared to brand-created content) marketers are 2.1x more likely to say brand-created content is most authentic in comparison to UGC.

This drive towards UGC puts the focus on consumers as brand advocates, during a time of uncertainty and faltering trust across many industries.


Overall, the Edelman Trust Barometer has shown us that authenticity and trust are gained through ethical and competent behaviour.

Often seen as a nice to have, demonstration of a company’s more ethical practices such as corporate, social responsibility or use of UGC is becoming more and more important. It’s no longer the ‘fluffy’ side of marketing- being more authentic and transparent is a key driver to a company’s growth, image and revenue.

Businesses that are transparent, that stick to their promises and admit when they’re wrong or when changes need to be made, can be guaranteed to build trust.

To find out how you can build trust through UGC, why not contact us here.

Three things we learned from the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Report